3Com makes enterprise networking play

With new software to aggregate gigabit switches, a more fault-tolerant LAN core switch, and advanced redundancy features for mission-critical applications, 3Com Corp. today jumped back into the enterprise networking market.

Two years ago, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based vendor stepped out of the big-iron switching arena, leaving many enterprise-level customers unhappy. Today’s announcement marks what Jeff Garner, 3Com’s director of modular LAN technology, called “a huge step back into enterprise solutions.”

The software, called Expandable Resilient Networking, or XRN, allows users to aggregate multiple gigabit switches, even if they reside in different locations.

The first phase of the technology will be available late this year and offered as a free upgrade to any customer using a 3Com-managed gigabit switch.

Two more phases will follow after that, in “months, not years,” according to Garner. The third phase will allow users to aggregate up to six different switches with 48 individual gigabit ports in each one.

Switch 4060 is a Layer 3 gigabit switch offering 24 ports with a dual power supply, a hot-swappable fan and over-temperature detection. Available in early June, the LAN core switch will cost US$17,995.

Available now is the 4007R modular LAN switch, which supports IP, Internetwork Packet Exchange and AppleTalk routing. It also scales up to 216 Fast Ethernet ports and 54 Gigabit Ethernet pots.

In general, Garner said, 3Com is looking to leverage its modular networking expertise and use that to offer stackable networking to growing businesses and enterprise customers.

Bill Flanagan, an analyst at The Burton Group Inc. in Salt Lake City, said the stackable products will likely appeal to midsize companies and the lower end of the large enterprise market. “It certainly allows you to add capacity as you grow,” he said.

Even so, Flanagan said he believes that ease of maintenance would cause the largest enterprises to stick with big-iron chassis switches.