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Security, Manageability Drive Cisco Upgrades

Cisco Systems has introduced new products and capabilities for its popular Catalyst switch line, many of which dovetail with its self-defending network strategy.

"Gone are the days when you can put a firewall at the edge of the network and keep the bad things out," Steve Shalita, Cisco's senior manager of product marketing, said. "The risks are everywhere."

Among the new offerings is Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) snooping. The technology can identify a rogue device that comes onto the network and pretends it's a server, redirecting traffic to overwhelm the system.

Also tied into the Catalyst family are: Dynamic Address Resolution Protocol, which safeguards against "man-in-the-middle" attacks where a hacker inserts, deletes or modifies message code flowing between network users; and IP source guard, to prevent the theft and misuse of IP addresses.

Finally, on the security front, Cisco is adding security layers to the systems using the 802.1X wireless security standard.

In addition to security, Cisco also focused on improving manageability. Smartports, which enable easy configuration of switch features, are now available for the entire Catalyst line. They cut the amount of command line programming needed to configure changes. A new Web-based management tool was also unveiled for the Catalyst 6500 switch.

"To meet evolving business requirements, the enterprise network must be able to support and manage advanced applications with greater simplicity," Chris Kozup, program director of technology research services at the META Group, said in a statement.

Other improvements include: a 48-port SFP fiber-based gigabit Ethernet module; a new 10-slot chassis and supervisor engine for the Catalyst 4500; 10 Gigabit Ethernet uplink capability for the Catalyst 3750; and new 10 Gigabit Ethernet XENPAK optics that support multi-mode fiber and copper interfaces.

The products are available now or later this month, Shalita said.

Catalyst switches have been on the market since 1999 and are in their third generation. Most of the new components are backward-compatible so users can upgrade incrementally. Shalita said that's part of their appeal, as IT managers and enterprise customers scrutinize IT budgets.

San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco has made a number of security announcements in recent weeks, including the acquisition of Twingo Systems and the introduction of new hardware and software. Cisco competitors such as Juniper Networks and 3Com are also making moves in the security space.