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3Com offers NT speed from a distance

The networking giant's new enhancements provide easy ways to implement Windows NT Server's remote access capabilities, says 3Com.

3Com is betting that users of Microsoft Windows NT Server will jump on easy ways to implement the operating system's remote access capabilities.

The networking giant released new enhancements to its popular Total Control remote access hardware platform (gained through the merger with U.S. Robotics). Those additions boost the hardware support for running Windows NT Server applications within the concentrator next to racks of modems. That integration allows faster response times to requests from users at remote sites, for example.

The company has offered support for NT previously, but the hardware performance boost may be a more attractive option to users. Because the operating system (OS) is running within the same hardware that provides remote users' connections, the information can be delivered faster, 3Com said.

The new card, called the EdgeServer Pro, slides into the box and includes two Intel Pentium Pro 200-MHz processors and support for 1GB of RAM.

The company wants to take advantage of new capabilities within Windows NT that allow both client and sever-side connections through the OS. On the client side, the Redmond, Washington-based software giant has developed a series of technologies code-named BaseCamp (see related story) that allows users to implement secure connections across the public Internet. That technology is part of an Option Pack for Windows NT Server 4.0 that is currently in beta testing.

On its Windows NT Server, Microsoft has released software technology called Routing and Remote Access Services (RAS) as an add-on to the OS (see related story). 3Com and Microsoft jointly developed software drivers for the RAS capabilities to communicate with the remote access modem equipment.

By using Windows NT Server's remote access capabilities within the same box that provides connections, 3Com hopes to sell the hardware to intranets that also run NT-based firewalls, proxy servers, electronic mail, or collaboration applications.

Jennifer Geisler, a manager of product marketing at 3Com, said: "People that are very comfortable with Windows NT are excited about RAS." 3Com also offers an option that does not incorporate NT.

Currently, the remote access services provided by Windows NT Server offer support for 256 concurrent user connections. That doesn't come close to the 311-user ceiling for a Total Control hardware configuration.

The latest EdgeServer Pro card will be available by the end of the year for $10,593 for a base configuration.