A recently announced all-fibre-based switch from 3Com Corp. could help government agencies looking to deploy secure fibre-based network infrastructures without breaking their IT budgets.

3Com’s SuperStack 3 Switch 4400 FX can be used to link end-user PCs or other switches in different LAN segments with multimode fibre connections. The box could be deployed at agencies that handle classified data and require fibre connections for security, because data travelling on fibre-optic cable cannot be tapped as easily as copper, experts say. Such agencies require high-density fibre connections even to desktops, which are typically copper-based connections.

The SuperStack 3 Switch 4400 comes with 24 ports of 100Base-FX built into a fixed-configured, 1U-high switch. Each port can support a multimode fibre connection and transmit data more than 1.2 miles. (Copper Fast Ethernet ports have a distance limitation of about 1,000 feet.)

The Layer 2 switch can support 802.1p packet forwarding prioritization and 802.1q virtual LAN segmenting for providing security and quality of service to various user groups and types of traffic. Multiple 4400s can be stacked and managed as a single network node.

The company’s fixed Layer 2 and Layer 3 products – which include copper- and fibre-based switches – continue to represent a large part of the market, according to Synergy Research Group Inc. Its stackables accounted for 11 per cent of the US$969 million in the fixed-configured switch market in the first quarter of 2003, second only to Cisco Systems Inc.’s 59 per cent. In terms of price, 3Com’s fixed LAN ports were about US$23 per port last quarter, less than half the cost of its top two rivals, Cisco and Nortel Networks Corp.

Cisco and Allied Telesyn International Corp. are among several competitors that make high-density fibre-based switches aimed at the government market.

The SuperStack 3 Switch 4400 FX will be available in July for $4,500.