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Cabletron shops for a boost

There is a long tradition of buying to grow a company's business in the networking industry, and Cabletron is no exception.

ROCHESTER, New Hampshire--There is a long tradition of buying to grow a company's business in the networking industry, and as the market will find out this fall, Cabletron Systems is no exception.

Fresh off beating lowered expectations for its most recent quarter, the company is planning to roll out a series of equipment targeted at wireless local networks, remote access, and wide area connections through the fall and into the first half of next year.

As tempestuous market conditions continue to weigh down the networking industry, the launch of this wide variety of capabilities--a new thrust for the classically switch and hub-focused Cabletron--could go a long way toward allaying fears that the company has seen better days. It may also provide evidence to some doubters that Cabletron can be a player in markets that have not been a traditional strength.

Though Allen Finch, senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, said the company is looking to "reclaim the enterprise," this related activity underscores the changing dynamics in play within the networking industry as more and more technologies are required to take care of various customer needs.

The new thrust will start with the launch of new wireless networking capabilities next week at the ComNet trade show in San Francisco based on technology the company acquired from Digital Equipment's network products group. The company will also add enhancements to Digital's switch lines.

A new SmartSwitch RoamAbout device, or access point, allows users with wireless modems to access their local network. The device can support up to 200 users with a single access point, priced at $1,295, and allows for roaming distances of up to 600 feet. The new technology will roll out in December. Accompanying modem cards cost $495.

The Bay Networks unit of Northern Telecom recently launched similar technology, also acquired.

In conjunction from the wireless boost from the newly acquired Digital networking business, Cabletron also plans to add new uplinks to the MultiSwitch 900, previously a widely adopted device for the Digital customer base. New additions include a Fast Ethernet module, a gigabit-speed Ethernet interface, and a smaller chassis with four slots.

That launch will be followed by a remote access and wide area focus at next month's Networld+Interop networking summit in Atlanta, featuring technology the company has acquired from the likes of Ariel and FlowPoint, along with continued additions to the company's SmartSwitch Router (SSR) device.

Using the FlowPoint and Ariel technology, Cabletron hopes to bid for a portion of business-oriented integrated services digital network (ISDN) and digital subscriber line (DSL) deployments, taking advantage of new hardware for both ends of the connection.

And further distancing itself from some members of the gigabit-speed Ethernet wave, Cabletron also plans to add wide area interfaces to its SSR line, technology that was acquired from Yago Systems earlier this year.

Included in the wide area push--another signal that the Yago technology will become a primary revenue driver at the firm-are new T1 and T3 cards for SSR, due in two months, as well as a focus on asynchronous transfer mode, or ATM, support, with OC-3, OC-12, and OC-48 support due by the end of next year's first quarter, according to Piyush Patel, senior vice president of Cabletron's west coast division.

Another area of focus for the SSR, packet-over-SONet (synchronous optical networking) technology, will debut by the second quarter of next year, he said. "The Yago technology allows us to do a lot of different things," Patel said.

All of this wide area activity on the SSR side of Cabletron's business is intended to attract the eye of large corporate networks and service providers who are increasingly using a networking "fabric" based on fiber optics.

Cabletron has also made another attempt, via the acquisition of Digital's business, to gain a foothold in reseller sales channels--classically an area of weakness for the direct sales-oriented firm. Giulio Gianturco, president of the Digital networks products group, said the firm is now approaching 40 percent of sales through reseller channels in the aftermath of the acquisition, with plans to build the company's list of sales partners to 200 within nine to twelve months.

This past week, Cabletron finalized plans with Compaq Computer, which inherited the three-year, $1.1 billion deal in promised sales of equipment that was struck when Cabletron acquired Digital. Digital is now part of Compaq. Compaq will soon sell a Compaq-branded version of Cabletron's SSR device, Cabletron executives said.