Overview of Cisco Catalyst 3850 switch


As many of you will be aware, Cisco announced the release of the Catalyst 3850 switch at Cisco Live 2013 in London only last week. As I blogged at that time, this wasn’t the world’s best kept secret. Several people were talking about it online and I’d come across a few pages on different parts of Cisco’s website hinting that it was coming. There was mixed reaction to the news from ‘is this not just a 3750 with an integrated Wireless LAN Controller?’ to more warm and welcoming feedback. I’ll try and leave my own judgement until the end of the post but for now, let me list some of the specs of the 3850 and make the obvious comparison to the 3750X using data from Cisco’s website:

Comparison of Catalyst 3750-X and 3850 Switches

Features Cisco Catalyst 3750-X Cisco Catalyst 3850
Stacking bandwidth 64 Gbps 480 Gbps
Cisco IOS® Software wireless controller No Yes
Queues per port 4 8
Quality-of-service (QoS) model MLS MQC
Uplinks 4 x 1GE2 x 10GE NM4 x 1 GE or 2 x 10GE SM 4 x 1GE2 x 1/10GE4 x 1/10GE(on 48 port model)
StackPower Yes Yes
Flexible NetFlow support Yes (C3KX-SM-10G required) Yes
Multicore CPU for hosted services No Yes
Flash size 64 MB 2 GB
Operating system Cisco IOS Software Cisco IOS-XE Software

The first thing that is immediately obvious is I need to find a better way to format tables on my site!

The second thing is that, putting the integrated wireless functionality of the 3850 to one side for now, it is clear that the 3850 offers improvements in several areas; far greater bandwidth across a switch stack (where more than one of these switches are connected together as a single ‘virtual switch’. The actual stacking cables themselves are much improved too), more queues per port, a preferable QoS model and a move to IOS-XE which in itself has a number of improvements over vanilla IOS. Take a visit to various places on the web and you will find many more spec sheets that show improvements of all sorts e.g. more ACEs for security, QoS and PBR, a bigger TCAM and many more.

Integrated WLC

Whilst we all love having more of everything to play with on our favourite devices, I think that the feature that gives this announcement some punch is the wireless capabilities of the switch and all in a 1U form factor. You could also get this functionality in a 3750X but only on a 2U switch from what I recall. Of course, if you want to stack your switches and want redundancy in the WLC also, then 1U wins over 2U every time, 4U over 8U, etc.

The WLC integrated in to the 3850 has some features that you might want to see in any Cisco controller e.g. Clean Air, EnergyWise, QoS. One switch will support 50 WAPs and 2000 clients. Although I haven’t looked at purchasing these yet, I was told by a number of Cisco people at Cisco Live that the price is going to be comparable to a 3750X, but you will probably need to add on the WLC licencing to that base price.


If you consider that you are saving yourself the requirement for a standalone WLC on top of all of the increases in capabilities, the move to IOS-XE, the improvement in the stacking technology etc., the 3850 looks like a very capable and tempting upgrade to the 3750X. Cisco are classifying this product under Unified Access, bringing wired and wireless access in at the same point. I just wish I’d had the opportunity to put them in to our office network last year when I opted to use a pair of stacked 3750X switches with a 2504 WLC.

Till the next time.

Catalyst 6800 switch? Maybe, maybe not…


Just a quick piece of conjecture here before last call at the airport. I was hearing rumours of a Cisco Catalyst 6800 series switch over the last few days. Some quick and dirty ‘facts’:

  • It is being touted as the next generation chassis for the 6500. This is to allow the limits of the 6500 back-plane to be upgraded in order to accept some increasingly sophisticated line cards e.g. 100G, service-a-riffic <long week, that’s all your getting
  • Will accept half width line cards
  • Will be available in 2013

I only got a whiff of this on the last day so wasn’t able to delve any deeper but it definitely gives weight to the statements coming from Cisco that the 6500 platform is being invested in, even though they aren’t calling it the 6500 anymore! We’ll just have to wait and see.

Till the next time.