Before we march forward with 5G and Wi-Fi6, it’s good to pause and look back at how we got here. The Catalyst 6500 Series of campus switches, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary, will soon be coming to its end of life after 1 million chassis and hundreds of millions of ports shipped.  It was, for sure, a “game changer” and the backbone of enterprise networking as we know it today.  We talked to Prashanth Shenoy, VP of Marketing for Enterprise Networking, who started his career at Cisco as a software engineer working on the 6500, on how it changed networking – and his own career path.

Cisco Blog: When did you start your career at Cisco?

Prashanth Shenoy: I started at Cisco as a software engineer in 2000.  That was a pretty exciting period: we had just launched the product to market and were really ramping up. It didn’t feel like I had joined a big company; we were in a startup mode.

CB: What was so different about the Catalyst 6500?

PS: At that point, IPv6 and MPLS were technologies that were new to the market. We built those technologies right into the hardware and the software capabilities.  We were really thinking about the 21st century, and designing the 6500 to last.  There are still Catalyst 6500s running in many large campuses today. I’ve seen them running for ten years without a second of downtime. That’s unheard of.

As far as switching innovation and longevity, the Catalyst 6500 is the gold standard. Over the years, a lot of competitors tried—but none of them were ever able – to match it.

CB: How long did you work on the 6500?

PS:  I spent five years on the team developing the software functionalities that propelled the switching industry forward. Several colleagues like Muninder Sambi, who now runs product management for our switching and routing products, were on that team with me, sitting in the cubicles next to me —yes we had cubicles back in 2000.

CB: What are some personal learnings from the Catalyst 6500 era?

PS: I think that the 6500 taught Cisco how to build innovative platforms for the long term. It also taught us how much IT teams value products that will serve them and their customers well for many years and that as a result they are willing to reward us with their trust. And personally, it taught me how Cisco’s reach affords me the opportunity to make important contributions to customers’ networks every day. It’s a great feeling to wake up to each morning and see the impact of what you do.

CB: Once the 6500 is retired, what takes its place?

PS: The Catalyst 9000 family builds on the legacy of the 6500 – to allow IT organizations to deploy the campus platform they will need for this digital era.  All of the foundational elements that made the 6500 great – security, reliability, extensibility etc. – will be even more important in the next 20 years as they have been in the past 20 years. Having said that, networking is going through some radical changes to accelerate multicloud, IoT, and mobility initiatives, while keeping users and data protected. The Catalyst 9000 family has been designed to specifically handle what is next in networking, enabling intent-based networking (IBN) and supporting a controller-based, automated approach to managing the network lifecycle.  It’s also designed to drive policy end-to-end across the entire campus and more importantly, gain intelligence from the network to drive actionable insights for business and IT.  It’s our vision that the Catalyst 9000 family will be the IBN wired and wireless platform for the next 20 years.

What’s next in networking? For more information – and to find out if your network is ready for intent-based networking, check out our 2020 Global Networking Report.


To find out more about what’s next by visiting our Catalyst 9600 product page.


Julie Niesen

Marketing Manager, Thought Leadership

Intent-Based Networking Group