3Com’s switch to enterprise continues

3Com Canada Inc.’s recently released Switch 7700R should help the network equipment vendor increase its foothold in the enterprise market, according to an industry observer.

But, the same observer noted, 3Com still needs to work on its marketing and customer awareness to ensure enterprises know the company has business-class products and is committed to the market for the long haul.

The Switch 7700R is a version of 3Com’s chassis-based core Switch 7700, which includes an extra slot for a redundant management module. In the event the main management module goes down, the switch will fail over to the backup module in as little as one second, making the 7700R ideal for mission-critical environments, such as data centres, said Martin Lowry, product manager for the Switch 7700 family. The backup module runs in hot standby, receiving updates from the primary module on system configurations such as port and VLAN settings.

Until now 3Com customers requiring high availability in the core have been installing dual 7700 chassis, said Bruce Comeau, country manager for 3Com Canada. The 7700R gives them a cheaper option. A 7700 chassis with dual power supplies and a switch fabric lists at about US$22,000. A 7700R with dual power supplies and one switch fabric lists at about US$25,000. An extra switch fabric costs around US$10,000.

The Switch 7700R is being deployed at Prudential Northwest Properties, a real estate company with 19 offices around the Portland, Ore. area.

It will act as the corporate backbone, plugging in all corporate resources, including 3Com’s VCX IP PBX and unified messaging servers.

Having a backbone with dual, redundant switch fabrics was a key feature, said Sean McRae, CIO for Prudential.

“Our network is maturing to a point where reliability is crucial, because of our wider use of applications such as unified messaging and voice over IP,” he said.

From a product perspective, the 7700R should help 3Com, said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with The Yankee Group.

“They didn’t have a switch before to meet those high-end enterprise needs,” he explained. The bigger question, Kerravala noted, is whether 3Com can boost its profile in the enterprise.

“If they target their sales efforts to areas where there is a well-defined [request for proposal] process, they have a good chance of winning the account,” he said. “But in the broader sense of the enterprise, where a lot of equipment is bought because of a relationship, it’s pretty tough to compete with Cisco there.”

3Com will wind up facing off against competitors such as Hewlett-Packard Co., Nortel Networks Corp., Extreme Networks Inc. and Enterasys Networks Inc., Kerravala said. While he believes there are too many vendors in the switching market, Kerravala feels 3Com should be able to survive because the company can sell complete systems, including both voice and data. The Switch 7700R, like the Switch 7700, is based on technology developed from 3Com’s joint venture with Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. The 7700R supports up to 96 Gigabit Ethernet ports and comes with eight slots – two for switch fabrics and six for port modules. The 7700R is available now.

– with files from IDG News Service

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