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Management in the palm of your hand

Managing a multimillion corporate network from a PalmPilot may seem like a gimmick, but with 3Com providing the network equipment, software, and handheld device, it may be possible.

LAS VEGAS--Managing a multimillion corporate network from a 3Com PalmPilot may seem like just another gimmick, but with 3Com providing the network equipment, accompanying software, and the handheld device, it just may be possible.

Users of 3Com's Transcend network management software can download network device data into PalmPilots, view reports, and fix problems from anywhere they are, 3Com executives announced this week at Network+Interop, the networking industry's largest trade show.

See related story: It's a Palm, Palm world With a wireless Internet connection, IS managers can also receive emails and pages using their PalmPilots, alerting them of potential problems plaguing the network, said Les Stuart, product marketing engineer for 3Com's Network Management Division.

As reported earlier, 3Com also plans to soon roll out wireless technologies for both businesses and home users, including a wireless Internet service for Palm VII users in the second half of this year.

Transcend users with PalmPilots can access and configure switches and other devices, Stuart said. They can also access 3Com's "knowledge base," a collection of online resources, including documentation on how to fix problems.

Analyst Shannon Pleasant, of Cahners In-Stat Group, said network managers are a good market for PalmPilots.

"It's incredibly interesting how they're finding ways to use their expertise in management software and the edge of the network to bring Palm to their core competencies," Pleasant said. "If you start making [PalmPilots] an extension of the network, that's really a strategic fit."

3Com made several other announcements at the networking show. Computer Associates announced it would integrate its systems management software with 3Com's Transcend software.

CA's Unicenter TNG Switch Management Option will discover and map 3Com devices, including CoreBuilder and SuperStack II products. Then the companies will integrate CA's standalone network monitoring software, NetworkIT Pro, with 3Com's Transcend Network Control Services.

The companies expect to provide customized support for their mutual customers by the second half of this year and mainstream support by the first half of 2000.

3Com also announced a new 10/100 network interface card (NIC) that features encryption as well as a processor that handles networking tasks.

The NIC, which will support the forthcoming Windows 2000 from Microsoft, improves the operating systems' performance by handling TCP/IP networking tasks, such as Web surfing, as well as encryption of all types of data, including email, said Donna Marie Nutile, product manager for 3Com's Ethernet Products Division.

The NIC improves Windows 2000's performance because the processor on the PC or server can concentrate on applications.

"This is showing that 3Com is serious about NICs. It's not just a commodity product. There's value-added features," said analyst Pleasant.

Nutile said the NIC can be used with PCs, workstations, and servers; will ship in midsummer, and will cost $120. Future versions will include load balancing, which allows a NIC to share the workload with other NICs on the network.

3Com also announced a new switch that allows mobile users and employees in branch offices to connect to the corporate network via Virtual Private Networks. The PathBuilder S400 switch, which supports 256 simultaneous users and supports voice over IP, costs between $3,500 and $8,000 and will ship this third quarter. 3Com had previously released the PathBuilder S500, which supports about 2,000 simultaneous users.