Intel increases networking systems offerings

In an effort to continue its push into the networking market, Intel Corporation recently announced the addition of two new families of switches and routers and has already released three new products from the lines.

The Intel 6000 Series Switch is the first of the new products. The modular gigabit Ethernet box acts as an aggregation switch, directing data to and from the central “intersection” where the components of the LAN meet. The switch has 32 gigabit Ethernet or 96 fast Ethernet ports in a 10.5 inch, five-slot chassis.

“It’s a Layer 3 switch,” said Steven Rotz, product line manager in LAN systems operation, Intel. “It has Layer 2 as well as a Layer 3 forwarding rate of up to 47-and-a-half million packets per second, so it’s a very robust design, and it’s a unit that is six rack units high.”

A main component of the switch is what Rotz called its “evolutionary capabilities”.

“That basically means we will be able to ship into the installed base,” he said. “Follow-on products – either modules, blades and so-forth, that will continue to evolve the capability of this product. That’s what’s very attractive about this type of design.”

There are also plans to add intelligent networking capabilities to the Intel 6000 Series Switch in the year 2000, allowing it to manage network traffic through dynamic data filtering, bandwidth reservation and server load balancing.

The Intel Express 9500 and 8200 router families are also being introduced, with the 9510 and 9520 available immediately. Available in multiple configurations, the routers support a variety of WAN protocols and reach up to 2Mbps of hardware-based compression on WAN ports.

In cases of primary connection failure, the routers will automatically default to a backup connection. Versions of the routers with an integrated CSU/DSU are also available for T1/E1 users.

Intel Device View will also be shipped for free with the products. The software features Windows- and Web-based tools to help control the infrastructure of the network.

And while Intel says the products are for mid-size enterprises — Rotz said the 6000 switch’s typical target would be 100 to 1,500 nodes — analysts seem to think that the mid-size market may not be the best target for the company.

Intel has a way to go before it will be able to be fully competitive in an already decided market, according to Dan McLean, research manager, network support and integration, IDC Canada.

“At the higher end, there probably isn’t much opportunity for a company like Intel,” he explains. “At the lower end of the market – smaller businesses, businesses that are 100 employees or less – there’s a lot more opportunity there.”

But Paul Strauss, senior analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass., thinks that Intel might find that particular market inappropriate.

“I don’t know if the mid-sized organization is a big enough market for them, particularly since the routers that they’re selling are for branch offices,” he said. “Large companies have branch offices. Mid-range companies don’t have that many branch offices.”

Both Strauss and McLean think that, looking at the big picture, there is room for Intel.

“The market has become very entrenched with existing vendors. They have their close ties with an installed base. Larger companies are largely tied up strategically” with other companies, Strauss said. “Intel has to build out a whole new distribution pattern and it has to begin making a mark on a new market place.”

McLean said that recognition will help.

“The issue at the lower end of the market is really price points. And it’s something where Intel is probably best-suited,” he said, “to attacking that kind of set of consumers given its whole history in PC computing and such, it’s extremely aware of price point sensitivity.”

Recent acquisitions that helped contribute to the design of the new products include Shiva and XLNT, which were both acquired by Intel earlier in the year. And if the company can manage more acquisitions, Strauss is hopeful for Intel’s networking future.

“I think they’re going to be making some more acquisitions to take more share. It’s almost certain that they’ll have to. I think there are signs of them developing new and more exciting products in about a year,” he said.

Prices for the products are as follows: The Intel 6000 Series Switch Chassis is US$13,995; the eight-port Gigabit SX Module is US$18,995; the Intel Express 9510 and 9520 routers are priced at US$1,449 and US$1,749 respectively. For more detailed price lists, visit the company Web site.

Intel is at or call 1-800-538-3373 for product information.