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3Com retools for large networks

3Com revamps its networking software in a bid to control a bigger chunk of large corporate networks.

By adding advanced policy-based intelligence to its networking software, 3Com (COMS) hopes to control a bigger share of large corporate networks.

As previously reported by CNET, 3Com has enhanced its Transcend networking software so that important data can bypass network traffic jams on its way to its destination. The new policy-based software--called TranscendWare--will include three suite components: Pervasive Management, Network Control, and Global Policy. Under these umbrellas, numerous software features will be added throughout the year.

3Com hopes to use its dominance in the desktop network interface card market (NIC) to tell a wide area networking management story to customers that does not stop at server and hub connections, but extends to the PC. The new software will be embedded in 3Com's line of switching gear, NIC's, and routers. Data traveling through this equipment can be prioritized based on the importance of a user or an application.

3Com's strategy is the latest networking play in a never-ending onslaught of strategies based on security, policy, and routing based on IP, the communications protocol of the Internet. "There's a lot of choices for people to look at. That tends to delay people's decision-making," noted Craig Johnson, principal analyst for Current Analysis, an Ashburn, Virginia-based market researcher. "For the next year it's going to be very challenging for these networking players."

"From a large MIS shop perspective, it's fairly compelling," he added. 3Com is bringing management all the way to the desktop, where most help-desk calls originate. "Only 3Com can add that value proposition to the table."

The linchpin of 3Com's strategy, however, is support for network communications and security standards that are just emerging out of organizations like the Internet Engineering Task Force. Johnson, for one, wonders how long will it take 3Com to get the features to market.

A 3Com spokeswoman said elements, such as the service level agreement reporting software and support for remote monitoring in the company's NICs, should find their way into the company's networking equipment by the first half of this year.

Other components in the wide-ranging software strategy include: support for Fast IP, virtual private network security, priority policy servers, asynchronous transfer mode quality of service, automatic update, wake-on event, IP route accounting, virtual LAN server, and LAN switch and end-system class of service. These components are due in the second half of this year.

Customers will be able to pick and choose what functionality they would like out of the TranscendWare software product line. "This is not an all-or-nothing approach," said Clint Ramsey, business unit manager for 3Com's local area network systems division.

The end result of a TranscendWare implementation is that administrators will be able to view their network in a manner that goes beyond measurements of performance and incorporates functionality that can show them who is using network bandwidth, what specific applications are clogging a network, and how the use relates to the business of the company. Furthermore, by using a policy-based server, a specific application or user can gain priority for bandwidth on a network.

Ramsey said the company will address the end-system components of the strategy first, then roll out the functionality for 3Com's networking equipment.