3Com unveils new solutions to deliver on promise

3Com Corp. last month launched a long list of new products, touting the announcement as the biggest commercial product launch in its history.

Among the products announced: a series of SuperStack 3 switches, a Web caching device, a stand-alone firewall box and a suite of Bluetooth wireless products.

In recent months, the company has seen major restructuring, including an announcement from CEO Eric Benhamou that he will be stepping down on January 1 to be replaced by 3Com COO Bruce Claflin. The company’s Palm division was also spun off a few moths ago.

The company said it wants to lead the way to the transition to gigabit Ethernet, and is offering the next generation of its SuperStack 3 Switch family to do so.

The goal behind the launch of all the products, according to 3Com Canada’s president and country manager Nick Tidd, is to deliver on the company’s promise.

“That promise is about spending less time figuring out what to do with your network and more time reaping rewards from it,” he said. “We’ve talked a lot over the last couple of months about radical simplicity, which translates to the fact that customers no longer want to understand how they are accessing their data – they just want access to it when and where they desire it.”

These announcements build upon that, he said, adding that Canadians understand the importance of leveraging the Internet to achieve a competitive advantage. They also have an insatiable appetite for information, Tidd said, offering the deployment of broadband and the ubiquitous use of cellulars for wireless as examples. The message is clear, he said; 3Com needs to leverage the most important trends in networking.

These product announcements “really are a major step towards that in that they really are about four key areas: gigabit Ethernet, telephony, wireless and Web enablement.”

In the area of gigabit Ethernet, 3Com introduced the SuperStack 3 Switch 4900, available this month, which will deliver gigabit Ethernet performance over fibre and 100BASE-T, and is ready for Layer 3 switching with a software upgrade, according to the company. Pricing is US$7,495 or US$9,995 for the 4900SX, which will be available in January.

The 3300 line of switches is also now available for US$2,995 and offers six models of stackable 10/100/1000Mbps switch, and offers 12 or 24 ports plus option slots for any additional modules. It is targeted as an aggregation box for connecting workgroup switches at gigabit speeds, or as a backbone switch for small offices.

Other switch announcements included the SuperStack 3 Baseline 10/100 and 10/100/1000, both available now for US$1,649 and US$2,695 respectively, and the SuperStack 3 ContentSwitch which will be available in April of next year.

New for 3Com is a Web caching device which is slated for release in April, 2001. This product announcement is significant, according to Dan McLean, a research manager with Toronto-based IDC Canada Ltd., because it will put 3Com at the same level as some other major vendors in an area that will be growing.

“There are products out there, but it’s still a fairly new line of things,” he said. “I think it’s important, obviously, for 3Com to be in that space because Web caching looks like it’s going to be a pretty important concept as people go forward with e-business and e-commerce-type initiatives.”

Tidd pointed out that “as a measure of confidence,” the company has increased the warranty on its SuperStack products to a lifetime warranty, and that existing customers can migrate over to the new ones.

“I think that this is demonstrating to our customers that we are truly focused and setting our strategy around connectivity,” he said.

The Bluetooth wireless products announced – LAN Access Point, PC Card and USB – will be available in the first quarter of 2001, and pricing will be announced at that time.

While McLean noted that the Bluetooth technology won’t be able to be used to its full capacity right away, in terms of the technology’s adoption, every major equipment vendor is recognizing its importance, he said.

“They’re just anxiously awaiting for all of the standards to become defined and smooth themselves out so they can jump in and start pushing forward on some products and solutions. I think it’s an important technology,” he said adding that the company was wise to also make this addition to its line of product offerings.

The company also revealed that it will be offering the following: an EtherLINK Server 1000 network interface card (NIC); NBX 100 Communication System Software Enhancements, which are available this month; the SuperStack RAS 1500, which will be released in January; and the Transcend Network Supervisor 2.0, available this month as a free download.

IDC Canada’s McLean pointed out that the challenge for the company might be that it will have too much on its plate with all of these new products.

“Because there’s so much there, it’s going to be difficult, I think, to get the word out about all of these things,” he said. “But certainly there is some key stuff here.”