3Com takes another stab at high-end LAN market

With a new partnership in hand and a whack of new gear, 3Com Corp. said it is ready to once again turn its focus to the high-end local area network (LAN) market.

At the CeBit America conference in New York last month, the network gear maker announced its newest switch, the 3Com 7700, a modular switching chassis that incorporates Layer 2 and Layer 3 switching functionality.

According to 3Com, the 7700 seven-slot switch supports up to 48 Gigabit Ethernet ports, up to 288 Fast Ethernet ports and offers a performance of 96Gbps.

“(The 7700) has all of the functionality you would expect from a modular system including…standard routing protocols such as routing information protocol (RIP) advanced security functionality such as SNMP version 3 and advances convergence functionality such as outbound traffic shaping,” said Bipin Mistry, technical marketing manager for 3Com in Boulder, Colo. “3Com customers have been asking for a modular solution. The 7700 will allow 3Com’s existing customers as well as new customers the ability to scale beyond 2,500 users.”

The 7700 is also the first product to hit the market as a result of the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company’s joint venture with law-troubled Huawei Technologies Inc. The Hong Kong communications equipment provider has found itself in an ongoing legal battle with San Jose-based Cisco Systems Inc. Cisco has accused Huawei of copying parts of Cisco’s IOS software, and a U.S. District Court ruling last week will prevent Huawei from selling its own router operating system, which contains technology from Cisco’s Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol. 3Com said Huawei’s Cisco problems will not affect the joint venture.

In addition to the 7700, 3Com has also announced complementary additions to its Extendable Resilient Networking (XRN) line of switches. The company has released the 4070, a fixed-configuration Gigabit switch, which supports 24 Gigabit Ethernet ports. The addition enables customers to manage 3Com switches in different locations as a single device.

The company has also announced Gigabit Ethernet switching software that enhances XRN functionality, as well as XRN Extension software, which 3Com’s Mistry said will allow XRN devices to scale as businesses grow.

However, the enhanced product portfolio may not be enough to win the hearts of potential customers. The company has lost some major credit in the mindshare game, having entered and exited several businesses including the high-end LAN switching market over the last three years. According to Dan McLean, director of utility research at Toronto-based research firm IDC Canada Ltd., while the high-end market is a logical place for 3Com to go in order to increase its customer base, businesses will be wondering whether the gear maker is in it for the long haul.

“One of the things that has been happening in the equipment space has been the volatility,” McLean explained. “You’ve seen people come and go in this market and we are at a point now where there is only one major player. Companies are always looking for strong alternatives. 3Com getting back into this space is a good thing for customers as it gives them one more choice. 3Com really has to put a stake in the ground and make a really strong commitment to this market, and that is going to be their biggest challenge.”

The 3Com Switch 7700 is available now and starts at $32,245. The Switch 4070, also available now is priced at $13,190. The XRN software is expected to be available in September and be part of a chargeable software upgrade. For more information, visit the company’s Canadian Web site at www.3Com.ca.