News Release

Cisco Readies Most Widely Deployed Network Switch to Tackle Next Decade’s Networking Challenges

Unparalleled refresh of the Catalyst 6500 delivers IPv6 and NetFlow ‘industry firsts,' can triple performance, quadruple scalability, and provide potential investment protection for another decade
Jul 12, 2011

LAS VEGAS, NV – July 12, 2011 – Today at Cisco Live, the company's annual IT and communications conference, Cisco introduced the infusion of multiple innovations into its flagship Catalyst® 6500 Series Switches, the most widely deployed network switches on earth. These innovations provide Catalyst 6500 customers with the capability to evolve their network infrastructure for the coming decade's  proliferation of connected devices, growth of video traffic, cloud computing business models and increasingly mobile workforces—without requiring "rip and replace" upgrades.

Awarded more than 500 patents, the Catalyst 6500 has been the de facto industry standard switching platform at the heart of the world's campus, data center, WAN, and Metro Ethernet networks since its introduction in 1999 and has a $42 billion installed base, nearly 700,000 systems/110 million ports deployed and more than 25,000 customers worldwide. For years the platform has set the bar for product leadership, deployment scale and new innovation in the networking industry. The Catalyst 6500 led the industry's port transition first from Fast Ethernet speeds to Gigabit Ethernet and then to 10 Gigabit Ethernet. In November 2010 it became the first modular switch to showcase 40 Gigabit Ethernet interoperability. The newly overhauled Catalyst 6500 continues this legacy of innovation with more "industry firsts," such as seamless IPv4 and IPv6 support from the switch's hardware platform, new network virtualization capabilities, a comprehensive set of L4-7 integrated services modules and new application performance and visibility monitoring through a completely revamped implementation of NetFlow.

At the heart of the makeover is the introduction of the highly anticipated Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series Supervisor Engine 2T, a 2-terabit card that unlocks 80 gigabits per second per slot, new feature-rich 10-gigabit and 10-Gigabit Ethernet line cards, and next-generation borderless services that provide customers with new mobility, security, network analysis and load balancing capabilities.

The new supervisor engine can increase the throughput capability of the Catalyst 6500 from 720 Gbps to 2 Tbps, a threefold increase. It can also quadruple the number of devices or users that can connect to a network. For example, a single Catalyst 6500 can now support up to 10,000 mobile devices.

All new line cards and the 2 Tbps supervisor are compatible with all Cisco E-Series chassis models, offering minimal intervention to the existing Catalyst 6500 E-Series infrastructure. This compatibility prevents rip-and-replace upgrades that jeopardize a customer's network uptime and require additional personnel, expenses and time.

Additional Key Highlights & Industry Firsts

  • More than 200 new technical features have been added to Cisco IOS® Software to meet growing security, mobility, application, voice/video, and virtualization demands. These include: Advanced Security Services with the full Cisco TrustSec® implementation, including hardware-based MacSec for wire-rate data confidentiality and integrity; Security Group Tagging for role assignment and persistence through the network; and Security Group Access Control Lists for role enforcement. The unique Catalyst 6500 Supervisor 2T Layer 3 Security Group Tagging allows for the highly secure interoperability and interconnection of geographically disperse networks. Scalable Network Virtualization Services with VRF-Lite, MPLS, and native hardware-based VPLS as well as MPLS over GRE are available at full interface speeds.
  • Next-generation service modules.New L4-7 mobility, security, network analysis and load balancing service modules allow customers to reduce the number of L4-7 devices in their network they need to manage, improving energy efficiency and reducing carbon footprint.
  • Technology to ease the IPv6 transition.Without penalizing the overall performance of the system, the new Supervisor 2T includes many technologies that ease the transition from IPv4 to IPv6. The Catalyst 6500 is also the first platform to offer IPv6 First Hop Security features (such as device tracking, Neighbor Discovery Protocol Inspection, and IPv6 per-port address limits) so customers can continue to grow their networks with a high assurance of security as they transition to IPv6.
  • First native support for technologies that simplify the LAN/WAN boundary for service providers and customers.These technologies, called Virtual Private LAN Services support and Bridged Domain Technology, enable rapid and flexible service provisioning, because the service bandwidth is not tied to the physical interface. Native support can substantially reduce the cost while radically improving performance for this proven, standardized technology.
  • First platform to offer system-comprehensive and multiprotocol NetFlow.To assist customers as they seek to increase the accuracy of capacity planning and resource allocation, Cisco has added support for Flexible and Sampled NetFlow for enhanced and granular monitoring of IPv4, IPv6, multicast and MPLS traffic. This refresh brings with it up to a fourfold increase—to 1 million—in the number of NetFlow entries that can be maintained.
  • Enhancements to ensure superior video experience.  While the "multicast" technique for one-to-many communication over an IP infrastructure has become increasingly important for market-data feeds and video broadcasts, multicast route scalability has been a persistent issue. To address this, the Cisco Supervisor Engine 2T provides up to a 16-fold increase in multicast route scalability. It also delivers major improvements to the way the Catalyst 6500 selectively forwards multicast traffic to only the links that have solicited them. Called IGMPv3 and MLDv2 Snooping, these enhancements help ensure that multicasting does not cause an unnecessary load on the host device, and they are especially useful for bandwidth-intensive IP multicast applications such as IPTV.


The new Catalyst 6500 Series is available now. Typical "2T" configurations can offer the lowest price/performance ratio ever, by offering as much as a 20 to 30 percent price reduction from the previous Supervisor Engine 720 generation while bringing up to fourfold scalability, threefold performance and an unparalleled feature set in the industry. It ships with immediate support in network management tools like Cisco Prime™ and Data Center Manager.

Supporting Quotes

  • John McCool, senior vice president, Cisco

"By closely working with our massive customer base, Cisco is able to focus our innovation on real-world requirements. This is why the Catalyst platform spurred the spread of the Internet on campus networks worldwide and is now enabling these same networks to evolve to 10 gigabits and 40 gigabits while taking advantage of a full range of network services in the campus and the data center—no ‘rip and replace' required. The relationship between installed base knowledge, innovation and business value results in greater competitive differentiation and industry leadership for Cisco, its customers and partners."

  • Ed Wilson, network test engineer/system design specialist, Pennsylvania State University

"The core of the network may not always get the limelight, but it makes or breaks the performance of the applications our faculty, students, and researchers depend upon daily. We see more connected devices and bandwidth-hungry applications coming online every year, placing greater demands on our network. We already have more than 20 Cisco Catalyst 6500 switches in the core of our network, connecting hundreds of departments and tens of thousands of faculty and students. The introduction of the Catalyst 6500 Supervisor Engine 2T will extend our investment in Cisco systems with impressive scalability and three-fold performance gains so we can better manage increased demands from users wanting higher-bandwidth services and greater mobility. The latest Catalyst 6500 innovations including IPv6, virtualization, enhanced security, and other areas highlight Cisco's commitment to supporting us as our network evolves to meet changing network performance requirements in higher education."

Tags/keywords: Cisco, switching, data center

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