Smaller firms get big switch features

Enterasys Networks Inc. says it’s bringing high-end functions to the cost-conscious enterprise with a new switch designed for mid-sized firms. However, the firm faces certain challenges in winning over potential customers, according to one industry observer.

The Andover, Mass.-based network gear maker in September unveiled the Matrix V2, a fixed-configuration switch that, according to Enterasys, puts price and performance at the top of its list of priorities.

Stanley Stevens, a product marketing manager at Enterasys, said the new device is priced the same as its Layer 2 predecessor, Vertical Horizon, but offers functionality akin to its big brother, the E1 – although the V2 leaves off the Layer 3 routing and built-in redundant power of that large enterprise-class switch.

“This product is…going to be part of our new product portfolio to address the mid-market enterprise – companies within the 250 to 1,000-employee range,” Stevens said. “They’re still treating their networks as viable assets that need some advanced features, but not the cost and complexity that a traditional large enterprise product brings.”

The V2 is a 24-port 10/100 rack-mounted switch with two Gigabit-ready expansion slots for uplinks or stacking modules; the stacking modules support up to eight units.

The device offers Layer 2 switching and Layer 2, 3 and 4 classification. The switch also presents 802.1p and 802.1q tagging, making it just right for supporting converged voice-data networks, Enterasys said. As well, the V2 supports protocols for rapid reconvergence, link aggregation, spanning tree, and flow control.

Enterasys said it kept ease-of-use in mind with the V2. The device offers management via an industry-based command-line interface, an embedded Web server or SNMP. As for security, the firm included 802.1x and port locking functions in the switch. The V2 also supports access control lists (ACL), SSH, SSL and RADIUS.

Enterasys ships the V2 with a lifetime warranty that covers the hardware even after the vendor stops manufacturing the device. Stevens said should speak volumes to the target audience.

“They’re really looking for a channel partner or a vendor…to provide them with a reliable, turnkey solution that’s not going to require a lot of maintenance down the road. If there is an issue with it, they want to know you’re going to stand behind that product, and they’re going to get a repair or replacement at no additional cost.”

According to Dan McLean, an industry analyst at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, the warranty spells investment protection. But Enterasys faces other challenges that could put that protection in question.

“Enterasys has seen its revenue streams shrinking, so one wonders if this is a company that will be around for the long haul. Questions about their future, I believe, are among the greatest deterrents to the purchase of their products.”

Mike Disabato, however, disagreed. The Chicago-based analyst with the Burton Group said Enterasys is financially sound – a far cry from its forebear Cabletron, which certainly wasn’t. Given the firm’s newfound fiscal conservatism and the confidence to include a lifetime warranty with the V2, “that’s going to wake up a lot of people,” he said.

The V2 is priced at US$1,195. For more info visit