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3Com's more than low-end gear

The company is placing a variety of bets in key markets to expand its role in corporate networking.

3Com (COMS) is placing a variety of bets in key markets to expand its role in corporate networking.

As part of a strategy rolling out at this week's ComNet trade show in Washington, the firm will add to its networking hardware line, beef up its partnership with Newbridge Networks, and add voice capabilities to its remote access boxes.

Details of the push were disclosed at an analyst briefing in New York two weeks ago, as first reported by CNET's NEWS.COM.

The machinations highlight stepped up efforts at 3Com to change the perception that the firm dominates the low-end of the hardware market. It gains a large percentage of its revenue from consumer products such as modems and networking cards.

The best evidence of this enterprise focus will come tomorrow when CEO Eric Benhamou addresses attendees at ComNet, a conference that caters to hard-core network administrators of large layouts.

3Com plans a three-pronged attack for the week:

  • It will unveil aggressively priced switching hardware tomorrow that adds gigabit-speed capacity to new Ethernet-based switches. Ethernet is the dominant technology for tying PCs and servers to a network.

  • The company announced plans to expand its alliance with Newbridge Networks, a high-end networking equipment provider focused on telecommunications firms. New elements added to an existing partnership include an arrangement whereby 3Com will resell Newbridge's ATM (asynchronous transfer mode)-based hardware and software, and Newbridge will resell 3Com's line of network switches. The two said they will also work to integrate their software tools into a cohesive suite for network policy and administration.

  • And 3Com rolled out new voice capabilities for its Total Control remote access hardware, a key enhancement that addresses an emerging market for "all-in-one" hardware. Fax and video services are also in the works, according to 3Com executives.

    "Clearly, 3Com is very serious about being an enterprise provider," said Clint Ramsey, director of marketing for the company's LAN systems business unit.

    The new switching hardware encompasses four new switches, a new shared hub, and networking cards that are all targeted at the move to higher speed networks and will start rolling out this month through March. The switches, in particular, offer users a path from traditional Ethernet speeds of 10 and 100 mbps (megabits per second) to next generation Gigabit Ethernet technology running at 1,000 mbps. Per-port pricing for gigabit-speed support is $1,249.

    The Newbridge deal gives 3Com access to high-end equipment that it can package with its own LAN (local area network)-focused products to offer customers an "end-to-end" set of gear.

    New voice capabilities for the Total Control remote access concentrator, acquired by 3Com as part of the merger with US Robotics, allow the company to play in the potentially lucrative market for hardware that can handle a variety of media services. The new capabilities will be demonstrated at ComNet and released by the end of March, according to 3Com executives.

    3Com executives also said an upcoming network management software announcement will tie the variety of administrative tools within the company to policy and service-based views of a network, a growing trend in the management software arena.