While the big boys in the network equipment market push advanced features into their gear, some customers are shunning those products and electing to buy high-speed network equipment from smaller switch vendors at sometimes thousands of dollars less.

Despite the proliferation of Layer 3 switches, the need for cheap speed – lower-cost switches that can move large amounts of data – is growing. Vendors in the so-called second tier of the LAN switching market, including Network Peripherals Inc., Allied Telesyn, Asante Technologies Inc., D-Link Systems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. are tapping into the demand. These companies offer Layer 2, and even some Layer 3, gigabit Ethernet switches at per-port prices that are much lower than the current industry average.

According to Stan Schatt, vice-president of consultancy Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., some enterprise net customers don’t need what’s on the cutting edge of network technology.

“Large network vendors keep pushing the envelope by offering more value-added services, such as quality of service, additional security features, and more port density as well as management features,” Schatt says. Many smaller vendors have found that there is a market for customers who will pay less for equipment that doesn’t a have a bunch of features they don’t need.

Government and educational institutions are always on the hunt for less-expensive gear. These customers, Schatt says, are often less interested in paying extra money for advanced features than in getting as much bandwidth as possible for their money.

Taking a pass on advanced features

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