New Cisco switch brings more networking features to the edge

Cisco is expanding its Catalyst family of switches for enterprises that need to blend industrial and operational technology (OT) systems

The the ruggedized Catalyst Industrial Ethernet 9300 1RU rack-mountable switch is based on the same programmable Unified Access Data Plane (UADP) ASIC found in other Catalyst 9000 and features 28 Gigabit Ethernet ports. Up to eight of the units can be stacked together and managed as one system.

The 9300 runs the same IOS XE operating system as other Catalyst boxes and can be centrally  controlled via DNA Center, Cisco’s principal networking-control platform that features myriad services from analytics, network management, and automation capabilities to assurance setting, fabric provisioning, and policy-based segmentation.

The switch’s software includes Cisco’s core security, identity, and access-control policy platform, Identity Services Engine (ISE). The switch also includes an embedded Cisco Cyber Vision sensor and works with Cisco Endpoint Analytics to gain system insights from industrial-control systems and connected endpoints.

The idea with the IE9300 is to bring more advanced corporate networking features such as automation, segmentation, and management to OT environments that typically don’t support those features, according to Vikas Butaney, vice president and general manager of Cisco IoT.

“Operational networks are often less secure, unsegmented, and manually managed with fewer capabilities to proactivity resolve issues,” Butaney wrote in a blog about the announcement. “Rapid growth in industrial IoT demands a new type of network with enterprise-grade security, automation, and performance combined with industrial features to meet compliance and use-case requirements.”

Without enterprise-grade network infrastructure features, IT/OT resources are increasingly strained, putting deployments at risk, Butaney wrote. IT and OT are collaborating more than ever and need common tools to scale and secure the network, Butaney wrote.

Cisco pointed to a Gartner note that stated:  “Most CIOs have responsibility for OT systems decisions: Eighty-two percent report their CIO responsibility for OT systems has increased in the last three years, and 89% say it will increase in the next three years.”

The IE9300 is the vendor’s latest move toward bulking up industrial network operations. Last summer, Cisco added routers designed to integrate remote, industrial-edge network resources. The Catalyst 5G Industrial Router family includes three modular routers and a gateway that run IOS XE and support network-access technologies such as SD-WAN, Wi-Fi 6, 5G, 4G, Private LTE, FirstNet and Wi-SUN. The goal is to tie together enterprise networks and SD-WANs with remote operations so IT can build, secure, and manage a unified edge, Cisco stated. 

The the routers plus the new IE9300 extend Cisco’s ruggedized industrial-networking portfolio, which includes the Catalyst IE3x00 series of Gigabit Ethernet switches and IR1101 Integrated Services Routers that Cisco says were purpose-built for IoT environments.

Positioning the IE9300, Butaney said the Catalyst IE9300 is an extension of the company’s very popular Catalyst 9000 series used in the enterprise.

“This switch shares the same technology, but is ruggedized for industrial and outdoor use cases. Unlike the Catalyst IE3x00, the Catalyst IE9300 is a rackmount switch (not din rail mountable) designed for fiber access and aggregation,” Butaney said.

The IE9300 complements the 5G industrial router to connect industrial and outdoor networking environments, he said. In the utility market, the new switch along with the existing Catalyst IR8300 ruggedized router is used in substation upgrades to meet the new IEC61850 networking standard that defines communication protocols for intelligent electronic devices at electrical substations, he said.

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