3Com expands direction with new XRN

In an effort to better define its roadmap for customers, 3Com Corp. announced new networking gear to be released later this year. And, according to one analyst, it’s about time the company revealed its plans, as 3Com must address certain “credibility issues.”

The firm, with Canadian headquarters in Mississauga, Ont., last month introduced new switching software, a new core switch, a new chassis switch and an enhancement to a current model.

It’s all in the name of giving customers a sense of where 3Com is headed, said Nick Tidd, managing director of 3Com Canada.

To start, 3Com created “expandable resilient networking” (XRN) software, which ties switches together so they can act as a network aggregation point. The software hides the stack behind one IP address and offers cost-conscious users a low-priced alternative to chassis-based switches, Tidd said, adding that XRN will be available in September, although the software’s price has not been set.

For the network core, 3Com introduced the Switch 4060, a Layer 3 gigabit box with 24 ports, hot-swappable fan and power supply.

As for 3Com’s chassis-based products, the new 4007R offers three power supplies, making for supreme redundancy, Tidd said. It is available today.

The 4005, a current 3Com chassis, now supports open short patch first (OSPF), a protocol that improves routing control, which, Tidd noted is important when networks carry voice, video and data all at once. The OSPF upgrade will be available this month.

Tidd said 3Com’s latest products spell fewer network failures, phenomena not often tolerated. “It’s no longer acceptable to say, ‘I’ll give you guaranteed availability on the network during business hours.’ Now it’s 24x7x365.”

And customers are likewise less tolerant of roadmap waffling, said Dan McLean, IDC Canada’s director of outsourcing and IT utility. He said 3Com has been accused of erratic driving. The firm used to play in the corporate network market, but in 2000 shut down production of its CoreBuilder chassis-based switches in favour of products for small- and medium-sized businesses.

“I think customers are going to ask some hard questions about that,” McLean said. “There are some credibility issues concerning market commitment that 3Com has to address.”

3Com’s latest announcement might help. The road is lit and headed in the right direction, McLean said. Customers are focused on the network’s edge and 3Com’s products – particularly the XRN software – speak to this growing market.

“The beauty of stackables is you can link them together and create a higher port density product,” he said. “That’s in line with where 3Com has been going for a while.”

Pricing for the XRN software was not available at press time. The Switch 4060 is priced at $26,992.50, the 4007R starts at $53,992.50 and the 4005 is $14,992.50. For more information, visit http://www.3com.com.