In what can only be called a triumphant victory, San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems Inc., outpaced its rivals to scoop up both a first and second place finish in Datamation's Product of the Year for 2000 in the Network Infrastructure category. Garnering just over 35 percent, Cisco's 6500 Routing Switch was the clear winner, followed by Cisco's Aironet Wireless 340 Series, which captured 20 percent of the vote.
While Cisco outpaced itself to capture a first place win by 15 percentage points, the vendor racked up almost twice as many votes: 70 for the 6500 Routing Switch compared with 40 for the Aironet Wireless 340 Series. The third-place went to Intel Corp., of Santa, Clara, Calif., for its NetStructure 7280 XML Director. Readers handed Intel 11 percent, or 22 votes.
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Chris Kozup, a research analyst in the global networking strategies group, at META Group Inc., of Stamford, Conn., was not surprised by Cisco's big win. "Cisco has a large installed base and as a core routing switch, which is the anchor of the network, the 6500 is bound to get a lot of recognition," he says. Still, adds Kozup, Cisco spent 2000 playing catch-up with its competitors and ultimately, "closed the last gap to compete on a technical level."
The Catalyst 6500 is Cisco's flagship switching product, according to Ben Goldman, marketing manager for the 6000 and 6500 products at Cisco. In the 2000 calendar year, the vendor made a number of significant upgrades some on the hardware side, others on the services side. For example, last March, Cisco announced the FlexWAN module and VoIP support. In May, the vendor introduced support for 1000-basedT GB over copper and a Network Analysis module. In the fall the company introduced a new Supervisor model and Cisco Express Forwarding.
Thomas Cox, director of IT operations at Sunnyvale Calif.-based Network Appliance Inc., says his company looked at several products before choosing Cisco's Catalyst 6500 switch. "Ultimately, we needed a broad solution to met all of our business needs and Cisco fit the bill to provide Gigabit Ethernet, manageability, and good technical services," he says. Today, Network Appliance has 40 Catalyst 6500 devices and is in the midst of a major rollout. Cox says he expects his company to purchase another 22 in the future.
| Worldwide Network Infrastructure Market (Products include: shared hubs; Ethernet switches; legacy routers; remote access concentrators; voice gateways broadband; customer premises equipment; core and edge WAN switches; core and edge WAN routers; DWDM, or Dense wase division multiplexers; Sonet/SDH Multiplexers)
Source: Dell'Oro Group Inc.
The high recognition given to Cisco's Aironet Wireless 340 Series in the Network Infrastructure category, jives with Kozup's view that enterprises have a significant and growing interest in the wireless LAN technology. "Within this market Aironet is a well recognized player," he says. Cisco purchased Aironet early last year.
Kozup says he expects the move will help validate the wireless LAN space, prompting more enterprises to consider wireless products. The vendor, he notes, brings a lot of value-add to the 340 series, such as ease-of-configuration and management, the integration of Aironet into CiscoWorks management system, and one-stop shopping for all its customers' networking product needs.
Philip Skinner, director of telecommunications and desktop computing at Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus, opted for Cisco's Aironet 340 Series earlier this year. "We were looking for a wireless infrastructure strategy that would satisfy all of our wireless application needs," he says. The medical center has been a user of wireless LAN technology for several years but to date has had a hodge-podge of different vendors solutions.
Looking ahead as to what will be hot in network infrastructure products in 2001, Kozup believes the IEEE 802.1x standard for port-based network access control will be important for both wired and wireless infrastructures. This standard will define mechanisms for access and authentication of network users.
He says he also expects continued interest in hardware-based routers, such as seen in the FlexWan module for the Catalyst 6500, as replacements of traditional routers, and the gradual spread of Ethernet into the metropolitan-area networks (MANs). "Sonet will not be replaced; rather, it will coexist with Ethernet," he says.
Lynn T. Haber reports on business and information technology from Norwell, Mass.