5 factors to consider when deciding between the Cisco Catalyst 6500 and 6800 Series

By Jim Burns, CXtec Senior Product Engineer

Are you trying to decide between the Cisco Catalyst 6500 and 6800 chassis systems? There are many factors to consider, but don’t go down the rabbit hole and get lost in minutiae. Here are the major factors to consider up front.


The 6800 Series is newer, 6500 is older. In general, the 6800 is considered to be the replacement for the 6500. 

But if your business policies won’t allow for the purchase of equipment that is end-of-sale (EOS), have no fear. The 6500 can still work for you – just find a reputable vendor of refurbished Cisco hardware and they can adjust your design as necessary. 

Keep in mind that one of the very good things about these two chassis families is that Cisco designed the 6800 to be a smooth transition from the 6500. The Sup2T and several port blades are compatible with both chassis. So age doesn’t necessarily need to play a major role in your decision – you have very good options either way.


The 6500 family has chassis with 3, 4, 6, 9 and 13 slots. Combine that with a blade max port density of 48 and you can use up to 576 ports (Gig copper or SFP). The 6807 chassis switch tops out at 240.

With these considerations in mind, you can look at the 6500 Series as having a bit of an edge when it comes to capacity. If this is a huge deciding factor for you, give the 6500 family a close look.


The 6500 Series has support for 802.3af and 802.3at (note: all PoE blades are EOS on the 6500 platform).  The 6800 Series actually doesn’t do PoE at all.

If you definitely need a PoE chassis solution, look to the 6500 Series. And if you require a PoE solution that isn’t EOS, Cisco recommends the 4500E Series.


The 6500 family tops out (with the Sup2T) at 80 Gbps/slot – more than enough for Gig connectivity and it can also do a decent amount of 10 Gig. There are even blades for 40 Gig and 100 Gig. Just keep in mind throughput per slot and you can easily calculate over-subscription.

How does the 6807 stack up? As the 6500 successor, it’s really just getting started – only Cisco knows what backplane(s) could be coming in the future (one of their white papers says theoretical max is 880 Gbps/slot).

Each of these families has potential for great throughput. It’s up to you how much you’re looking for.


If you’re on a budget (and who isn’t these days), seriously consider the 6500 Series. It is an extremely reliable platform that has been a leader for over a decade.

Reliable secondary market vendors can provide most of the chassis/blades/accessories at a great price point. It’s all about working with the right partner.

With the right module choices, you can transition smoothly from the 6500 to the 6807 as the newer chassis’ price points begin to come down. So for now, if it’s a bargain you’re looking for the 6500 Series is the right option. And you don’t need to worry about your future transition to the 6800 family.

You’ve got options!

No matter what your deciding factors are, you have some great options with the Cisco 6500 and 6800 Series. Just take a hard look at what’s most important for your technology infrastructure.

And if you have any questions, just give the team at CXtec a shout. We’re all about saving you money and giving you options – get the right solution for you.