3Com Corp.’s new 5000 Series routers, which began shipping last month, will be attractive to customers wanting an alternative to Cisco equipment, according to one market research analyst.

Albert Daoust, director of special products for Toronto-based Evans Research Corp., says Cisco Systems Inc.

has between 85 and 95 per cent of the router arena (depending on whether you’re measuring high-end or low-end routers).

“”I would suggest Cisco’s market share is not sustainable, just because you would think that no one can have an 85 per cent market share,”” he said. “”I would think there would be people looking for alternatives.””


Daoust said many users have never bought routers made by anyone other than Cisco.

“”The challenge for 3Com, or anyone else, is to convince people that they’re worth a try.””

Users who already have 3Com local-area network switches or 3Com Network Branch Exchange (NBX) voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) equipment may be in the market for the 5000 Series routers, Daoust said.

The 3Com 5009 router, which is priced at $2,045, is designed for either small office users or telecommuters, said Nick Tidd, director of business compliance and go-to-market strategy of 3Com Corp.

The Router 5231 is expected to cost $3,660 and is targetted at regional offices. The other two models — the 5460 and 5680 — are intended for main offices and are expected to be priced at $5,860 and $9,525.

The routers are designed to provide wide-area networking (WAN) and secure Internet services, and to support traffic prioritization and virtual private networking. They can route traffic over both virtual private networks (VPNs) and private leased lines.

Tidd, who was 3Com’s country manager for Canada before being promoted to his current position, said the 5000 series routers are suitable for networks supporting converged voice, video and data applications, and for networks that may have to support such applications in the future.

“”It’s not forcing a customer to have forklift upgrades, not forcing them to be concerned with … ‘Okay, if I change this dynamic of the network, or perhaps if I adopt IP down the road, then I have to go and upgrade my complete routing infrastructure.””

Tidd said many features of the routers — such as network interface cards (NICs), support for voice and wireless LAN capability — are available on Cisco and 3Com routers, but not available on hardware from other network equipment manufacturers.

The 5000 series routers are the first products built under 3Com’s partnership with Hauwei, a Chinese equipment manufacturer.

Along with the 5000 series routers, 3Com is shipping a new version of Network Administrator software, which will have router management capabilities, a new interface tool and will allow IT departments to manage all routers from one location.

“”Now you’ll be able to do distributed software upgrades, flash upgrades, because we’ve got more memory devices in the field,”” Tidd said. “”The ability to manage and maintain the routing devices becomes that much more effective, thus reducing your costs.””

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