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Tuesday
Mar062012

New Cisco Catalyst 4500-X 10GE modular switch

Along with 40 GE and 100 GE modules, Cisco recently announced the Catalyst 4500-X 10GE aggregation switch.

Cisco Catalyst 4500-X family

10GE Density

On its face, it looks similar to the Cisco Nexus 5000 series switches, but looking at the features it is definitely more of a campus LAN switch, rather than the Nexus data center line. There are two base configurations - a 16-port and a 32-port 10GE models. Each model has an expansion slot that currently supports an 8-port 10GE uplink model (Cisco datasheets suggest that a 40GE uplink module is on the roadmap).

Similar to the Nexus 5000s, the 4500-X ports support SFP+ 10GE optics along with 1GE SFP modules.

Layer 3 Support

The 4500-X supports both IPv4 and IPv6 routing in hardware, along with support for VRF-Lite and “Easy Virtual Network” (EVN) features. (The Nexus 5000s require an additional expansion module for layer 3 support).

VSS

The most intriguing feature in the 4500-X may be built-in VSS (“Virtual Switch System”) support. Two 4500-X switches can be linked by 10GE ports and configured as a single logical switch. This simplifies configuration while providing a higher level of availability. It also allows ether-channels to be be built across two switches (for link redundancy and performance while eliminating the need to build spanning-tree triangles). The VSS feature has previously been reserved for the 6500 chassis with Supervisor 720s. The 4500-X therefore offers a much more cost effective way to provide a highly available distribution layer (or even a core for smaller environments that want a 10GE backbone).

4500x as a distribution.

Summary

The 4500-X is an intriguing new solution as an aggregation switch for campus LANs that want to bring in 10GE uplinks without the cost or complexity of a chassis based switch. VSS capabilities in particularly allow for a dual switch redundant solution that logically functions as a single switch — a solution that up until now has required a much more expensive chassis based switch.

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