Cisco has released three compact switches to complement the Catalyst 9000 series. Some customers have been waiting for this product class, now known as the C9200CX, for some time. The platform based on IOS-XE and its features are now very similar to the large switches of the C9000 series.
While Cisco in the 9000 series of Catalyst switches consistently switched all models from the 24-port access to the modular core switch to IOS-XE, customers had to make do with the fanless compact switches with the monolithic IOS operating system in the C2960CX series (Layer 2) or C3560CX (Layer 3). Among other things, these lacked full flexible netflow and the option for MACSec encryption.
Authenticated and encrypted
The switches of the compact series from Cisco are used particularly in small or temporary locations. The fanless design also allows use at locations without an IT distribution cabinet or if the IT distribution cabinet has to be in an office for structural reasons. Especially when there is no physical access protection, the new model shows its strengths, since it now comes with MACSec encryption. It can authenticate the transmission between the switch port and end device according to IEEE 802.1X and allows link encryption with MACSec, particularly on the uplink. Anyone who previously needed this feature had to switch to at least a 24-port model with a fan.
The devices of the 9200CX series are available in three versions, all three equipped with two SFP+ ports with 10 Gbit/s. Two 1Gbit/s copper uplink ports are added.
In the simplest version, the C9200CX-12T-2X2G, one of these can power the switch via an IEEE 802.3bt-capable Class 8 uplink. Alternatively, the energy comes from an external 80W power supply. Otherwise this version has twelve RJ45 ports with 1Gbit/s.
The C9200CX-12P-2X2G and C9200CX-8P-2X2G models have POE+-capable downlink ports, eight and twelve, respectively, according to their model names. Both have an integrated power supply with 310 watts of power, of which a maximum of 240 watts are available for PoE. All switches in the series are fanless. With a maximum of 32,000 MAC addresses and up to 4,000 learned IPv4 routes and 2,000 IPv6 routes, they are even above the level of the C9200L series. For stateless packet filters (ACLs) they can trade 1 600 entries. 6 MB are available as a queue buffer. They bring 4 GB of DRAM and 8 GB of flash memory with them.
Unlike its predecessors, the new series has more flexible zero touch provisioning options. According to the data sheet, the series also comes with hardware support for micro SD cards up to 4 GB for offline preparation and simplified commissioning and replacement processes.
License change required
In environments with software defined access, the switches support up to 16 virtual networks. The models even master MACSec with up to 256-bit and also offer full Flexible NetFlow; in contrast to the sampling-based NetFlow Lite of the previous models. In the case of network automation, the standardization of the operating system on IOS-XE should have a positive effect, since it allows uniform configuration templates.
However, the switch also requires a change to the uniform license model with permanent licenses (Network Essentials or Network Advantage) and subscription-based licenses (DNA Essentials or Cisco DNA Advantage). The operation will probably not be cheaper compared to the predecessor.
In contrast to the big brothers, the compact switches do not allow stacking, i.e. the representation of several physical switches on a control and management plane. In addition, there is no option to connect redundant power supplies. Fans and power supplies cannot be swapped out during operation. Modular uplink options are also not provided.
Attractive for automation specialists
For customers, the inclusion of compact switches in the Catalyst 9000 series, including IOS-XE as the underlying operating system, results in a number of advantages in terms of feature availability, standardization of the network infrastructure and network automation. From a licensing point of view, however, you bring yourself into the same dependency as with the big brothers. Pricing remains to be seen. However, the prices should not be lower than the predecessors.
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