Wireless additions for all shapes and sizes: 3Com

Keeping faith in the promise of the wireless LAN market, 3Com last month launched two new additions to its wireless line of products, moves the company claims has helped to solidify the broadest product suite in the space.

Released last month were the Access Point 2000 and 8000, two Wi-Fi compatible wireless LAN products designed to meet the needs of remote branch offices and small business all the way up to the large enterprise, the company said.

The 2000 model is an 11Mbps wireless LAN access point, ideal for organizations that have a limited or no IT staff, said Bruce Comeau, business networking specialist for 3Com Canada in Edmonton. He said that the 2000 is a lower-cost alternative that offers simple installation.

“It installs in 60 seconds,” he said. “You just plug it into a power source in the wired LAN and it is ready to go. Typically there is no manual configuration required.”

Comeau said that on the flip side, the 8000 model targets large enterprise networks that require a high level of security.

The Access Point 8000 is an 11Mbps wireless LAN product that supports 40-bit WEP and 128-bit-shared key encryption. The 8000 also supports the IEEE security standard 802.1x, RADIUS authentication and extensible authentication protocols (EAP).

“The 8000 provides a higher level of security (with the) built-in RADIUS feature” Comeau said. “This provides another level of user name and password authentication right in the box.”

For businesses without a RADIUS server, but which also support a large user base, the company said that the 8000, when deployed with 3Com’s wireless LAN PC card with XJACK antenna – which was released last year and is also available on the existing Access Point 6000 model – creates a “dynamic security link.” The dynamic security link feature gives each user a unique key and changes the key with every session, the company said.

“Our plan is to offer the broadest portfolio of products that address the requirements of customers based on size and security,” Comeau explained. “There is not an end user out there whose requirements we can’t address.”

And, at least from one service provider customer’s viewpoint, that is a fact. Gerry Boyarchuk, vice-president, special projects for RigStar Communications in Calgary, said that after sitting with vendors in the wireless space, he felt that 3Com had the best offering. RigStar, which specializes in communications for oil and gas, said that 3Com actually developed its workgroup bridge product – released late last year – based on his need and suggestion.

“What happened was we wanted to run all of our client sites wireless including voice,” Boyarchuk said. “The problem with the original client bridges they had was that they only had the one back address. You couldn’t plug a phone and a laptop into it at the same time. I talked to them, explained what we were doing and [3Com] came up here and we drove them out into the middle of nowhere to an actual rig. We did the actual testing for the [workgroup bridge] out here.”

Boyarchuk added that the company not only relies on 3Com products in the field, but within RigStar’s office in Calgary, the company has installed 3Com Access Point 6000 models to wirelessly enable the building. He also revealed that RigStar has been a 3Com customer for over a year and recently selected it as RigStar’s main vendor supplier.

“The main reason for that was because they were there,” he explained. “They were there to pick up the phone. With a lot of other guys you leave a voice mail and don’t hear back from them for days. I don’t get impressed by that. We’ve got a good relationship with 3Com. I’ve dealt with all the big boys and they are nice to you at first when they want the sale, but after the sale, where are they? I am a customer and the customer is always right.”

Last month, 3Com also announced enhancements to its SuperStack 3 Webcache product family. The company said version 2.0 software for the SuperStack 3 delivers up to 50 per cent reductions in WAN Web traffic and associated costs. Designed for school environments with 30 to 1,500 and up users with moderate to high Web access, the SuperStack 3 software version 2.0 offers increased performance and scalability for improved system reliability, the company said.

The 3Com Access Point 2000 and 8000 are available now and are priced at $345 and $1,349 respectively. The SuperStack 3 Webcache product starts at $7,499 and the software comes included in the solution and is a free upgrade for existing users. For more information, visit 3Com on the Web at www.3com.com.