SuperStack of all trades

Increased sophistication among network users has lead 3Com to expand its portfolio of network switching products.

The company Friday released three additions to its SuperStack line, along with an update to its IT management software tool, Network Supervisor. The products will be available immediately through 3Com Canada’s reseller channel, the Mississauga, Ont.-based company said.

The products include the SuperStack 3 Switch 4400, which offers Layer 4 switching that is intended to assist corporations which have adopted an enterprise resource planning application. The SuperStack 3 Switch 4300, meanwhile, offers 48 ports and up to four expansion ports. At the lower end is the 3Com Switch 4005, with Layer 3 capability.

All three of the products are designed for businesses of all sizes, an indication that many organizations are looking for increased flexibility as they plan their IT infrastructure, according Nick Tidd, president of 3Com Canada.

“We’re spending a lot more time being careful about how we dialogue with our customers,” he said. “They’re being very cognizant about not putting themselves in a specific bucket or note size.”

This is partly explained, Tidd continued, by the complexity of many customer organizations.

In a large enterprise, for example, branch offices sometimes operate in ways similar to an autonomous small or medium-sized business, while the head office was set up more like a traditional enterprise. “The way they buy and source products are different. Even there, we find more and more corporations are providing campus-like environments based on the needs of specific groups,” he said. “This is because of changes in either behaviour or traffic. For two years, I’ve been up on my soapbox about putting voice and data on the same line. Now we’re finally starting to see that happen.”

Early adopters in this segment are not necessarily large financial institutions but education customers, health-care organizations, or anything embracing gigabit ethernet. Typically, Tidd said the average lifecycle for these products are three or four years.

“It’s going to accelerate. Increasingly customers are demanding that you must be able to recognize the order of an information request. You can only do that kind of prioritization on a Layer 4 switch.”

Trigger points for upgrades are congestion, lack of speed and change in traffic patterns. Tidd said the one-day support offered by the wizard-driven Layer 4 configurations in Network Supervisor 3.0 reflects the savvy developing among many network users.

“They’re setting the agenda, as opposed to being dictated to by someone else,” he said, adding that this also changes the role of the IT manager.

“Their job used to be make sure this doesn’t go down. The curriculum and IT positons have been merged into one.”

As 3Com attempted to increase its market share in the commercial space, it also said it would abandon another segment altogether. The company said it will discontinue its line of consumer cable and digital subscriber line (DSL) modems, except for its business DSL routers.

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Shane Schick
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