Cisco Catalyst 6800: New Name, Same Game

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Cisco adds three more options with the announcement of the Catalyst 6800 family. While Cisco touts the switch line as a game changer, it’s really designed to satisfy Cisco’s massive customer base of Catalyst 6500 owners.

The Cisco 6800 series is an evolution of the 6500 family, though there isn’t a one-for-one 6500-to-6800 replacement–as in you can’t order a 13/9/6/4/3 slot chassis. But there are useful options out of the gate.Cisco Catalyst 6800 New Name,Same Game

At the top end is the Cisco 6807XL, which has a new seven-slot chassis that can use some of the existing line cards from the 6500. You get as much as 880 Gbps per slot, for a total 11.4 Tbps maximum capacity. Cisco says the 6807XL will offer service modules that allow firewalling, wireless LAN control, network analysis and other features to be baked right into the chassis.

The existing install base of 800,000 6500 chassis was a chief driver for this box; the 6807XL gives customers an easy migration path to more bandwidth.

Cisco believes chassis-based service modules will be a big differentiator for the 6500/6800 in the marketplace, but I disagree. The rise of the smart, virtualized network edge makes me doubt service modules have much of a future.

Cisco also announced the Cisco 6880X, a partially fixed-configuration switch that lets mid-market customers get into higher-density 10 Gbps cheaply. Cisco-6880XThe 6880X has 16 10/1-GbE fixed ports with four slots to allow for expansion; each slot is capable of 200 Gbps and up to 800 Gbps for the entire chassis. Translating the marketing speak, that means you’ve really got 100 Gbps per slot in a single direction, or about a 1.6-to-1 oversubscription.

In other words, this switch is capable, but does not have a non-blocking fabric. If the point of this switch has you scratching your head a bit, yes, clearly there are other switches with bountiful 10 G capacity in Cisco’s lineup (Nexus 5500 and Catalyst 4500X, for instance). The fact is, the 6880X is positioned as a budget-conscious choice for the smaller enterprise.

The Cisco 6800ia is the third switch in the new line. It’s a unique device. The “ia” stands for “instant access.” The switch has 48 ports of 1GbE and can connect to any 6500 or 6800. When connected to the right core 6800, the “ia” inherits all the capabilities of the core switch. The core 6800 and attached 6800ia switches act as a distributed stack, with zero configuration of the “ia” switches required of the network administrator.

The point of this switch is to provide understaffed IT shops with a simple way to manage a campus environment. A 6800 core switch can connect to as Cisco-6800iamany as 20 6800ia switches, providing roughly 1,000 ports that are managed from a single point. No special cabling is required to achieve this, as the uplinks are through standard 10-GbE ports dedicated to uplink duties.

The Game Remains the Same

Cisco is marketing its new catalyst switches, and a few other (less interesting) product refreshes of the ASR1000 and ISR router platforms, as a “gamechanger”.

This is a textbook example of hyperbole. Cisco is changing nothing whatsoever. In fact, the greatest driver for these switches was the clamor from customers who want to keep everything the same. So, folks buying the Catalyst 6800s are going to get exactly that: more of the same.

• Do you want a switch that protects your 6500 investment? Done. You don’t have to change all of your line cards.

• Do you want a switch that runs the same monolithic IOS you have today? Done. Your operations can continue without any change at all.

• Do you want a switch you can get about 10 years out of while running all the features of the 6500 one day one? Done. You’ve got the entire kitchen sink of the 6500 IOS delivered on the new 6800 boxes.

In short, Cisco is bringing to market faster switches in the catalyst 6800. This doesn’t mean they’re better, and they certainly aren’t game changers. Rather, it means that if you’re a customer who likes to maintain the network status quo, your ship is arriving in the form of the Cisco 6800 line, which is expected to be available at the end of the year.

Expansion Plans

By offering a limited selection of capable hardware, Cisco could fully support each product rather than spread its resources across a diverse range of micro-targeted boxes. There’s really no point in adding a new switch line to the existing family of Catalyst 2000s, 3000s, 4000s and 6000s, not to mention the expanding Nexus product line.

The catalyst 6500E is the go-product for lots of Cisco customers, but in fact not. Why? Because the Cisco 6500E with the Sup2T was too much money for not enough potential bandwidth. You just can’t fit a lot of 10GbE ports in a 6500E (at least, not at an oversubscription rate you’d want), which even in a small installation is a limiting factor.

More Info: Cisco 6800 Overview

Cisco Catalyst 6800 Series Switches are programmable campus backbone switches optimized for 10/40/100 Gigabit Ethernet services. They provide slot capacity up to 880 G, and smart and simple network operations using Catalyst Instant Access. These switches offer converged wired, wireless, and VPN security, and exceptional investment protection with their Catalyst 6500 DNA.

Features and Capabilities

Cisco Catalyst 6800 Switches are built for next-generation scale, services, simplicity, and programmability. They allow IT staff to move from a traditional role of network administration to focus more on business innovation.


Help ensure that the campus is ready for 10/40/100 Gigabit Ethernet services with the higher slot and switching capacity of Catalyst 6800. The 6800 Series offers the highest-density 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports that:

  • Include advanced enterprise Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), Virtual Private LAN Service (VPLS), and Multicast functionality
  • Support multirate interfaces for easy migration from 1 Gigabit Ethernet to higher throughput services

Cisco Catalyst 6807-XL Switches can scale to 880 Gb per slot and 11.4-Tbps (full duplex) switching capacity. For midsize campuses, Cisco Catalyst 6880-X Switches provide scalability with eighty 10 or twenty 40 Gigabit Ethernet ports.


Built for Programmability

Catalyst 6800 switches support the Cisco One Platform Kit (onePK) software-defined networking (SDN) toolkit. You can easily build applications to automate operations and create services across the campus.

The 6800 Series Switches also support the industry-standard OpenFlow interface. You can program these switches for custom network services such as network slicing and traffic steering.

Built for Unified Access

The Catalyst 6800 series facilitates:

  • Five nines (99.999 percent) availability with next-generation Cisco Virtual Switching System (VSS) technology (VSS Quad Supervisor SSO [VS4O])
  • One policy with Cisco Identity Services Engine
  • Centralized management with Cisco Prime infrastructure
  • One network with Cisco Wireless Services Module 2 (WiSM2)
  • Roaming and device mobility with the Cisco Campus Locator/ID Separation Protocol (LISP)


To simplify the campus network, Catalyst 6800:

  • Supports the Catalyst Instant Access solution, which extends backbone features to the access layer with simplified configuration, management, and feature consistency
  • Supports Smart Operations features, including VSS, Smart Install, and Embedded Event Manager (EEM)
  • Is fully integrated with Cisco Prime Infrastructure

Highly Secure

You get comprehensive wired, wireless, and VPN security through Cisco TrustSec and support for Cisco AnyConnect sessions.

Investment Protection

Catalyst 6800 has features and operations that are consistent with Catalyst 6500 so your new network investment can be fully functional immediately. IT can upgrade the backbone with minimal service interruption and no staff retraining because it offers the same features and operational consistency as Catalyst 6500 Switches.

Catalyst 6800 switches also support all features that Catalyst 6500 switches do, so IT can be fully operational from day 1. IT can take advantage of existing Catalyst 6500 investments, as Catalyst 6807-XL supports existing Supervisor Engine 2T, line cards, and service modules.

Reviews from, written by Ethan Banks, CCIE, is a hands-on networking practitioner who has designed, built and maintained networks for higher education, state government, financial institutions, and technology corporations.

Notes: More data related to Cisco Catalyst 6800 Series Switches you can visit:

Cisco Catalyst 6800 Series 10 Gigabit and Gigabit Ethernet Modules for Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series Switch:

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