LAN gear rolls out in changing industry

Enterprise network engineers on the prowl for new LAN gear in today’s slack market won’t find a flood of new products at Networld+Interop this week in Las Vegas, but some vendors will unveil faster and smarter equipment.

In a show that looks to be dominated by new security-oriented hardware and software, LANs, once the bread and butter of N+I, are likely to take a back seat, analysts said last week. In part this is due to the weak economy, they said. However, some businesses are beginning to embrace the fatter pipes and more advanced traffic tools now rolling out.

For example, Steve Spence, director of IT at the New York City-based U.S. division of U.K. apparel company Burberry Ltd., plans to set up desktop videoconferencing among the division’s 35 stores over an IP VPN (Internet Protocol virtual private network) by year’s end.

“It gets pretty expensive to bring the managers in from all the stores just to have a three-hour chat,” Spence said. The company also plans to bring all voice calls among the stores on to a VOIP (voice over IP) system. That would erase long-distance charges for about 80 per cent of the company’s phone calls, saving up to US$7,000 per month, as well as big maintenance costs for traditional phone switches, he said. Those initiatives will be carried out partly with a 3Com Corp. Switch 4060, a model now in use at Burberry that 3Com will announce this week is now shipping.

Attendees will see fewer new LAN boxes this year both because of the weak economy and because most enterprises are just beginning to gear up for the convergence of their voice and data networks, said Martha Young, research director at Enterprise Management Associates Inc., in Boulder, Colo.

“The focus is more on better leveraging existing infrastructures,” Young said. However, enterprises are using new software tools to analyze how their networks are used, so they can later implement networks that deliver special service for the most important applications in use, she added.

At the show, Hewlett-Packard Co., based in Palo Alto, Calif., will unveil a modular switch platform designed to deliver routing and application-based packet differentiation at an economical price. 3Com will introduce gear for connecting several of its routing switches into a single virtual device and will lay out a road map for 10-Gigabit Ethernet in the service-provider and enterprise networks. Intel Corp. also is expected to detail plans for 10-Gigabit Ethernet. Meanwhile, Dell Computer Corp., a relative newcomer to the LAN industry that may help to shape its future, will privately show off intelligent routing switches and a computer with Gigabit Ethernet connectivity.

HP will unveil a modular switch platform with Layer 3 routing and Layer 4 application-based differentiation among packets. HP says the new Procurve Switch 5300xl series of switches will deliver these capabilities for as little as US$99 or