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Bay works to regroup

Interop Bay Networks delivers a plan to regain lost momentum in key networking markets, trying to shake negative perceptions about the company.

Interop LAS VEGAS, Nevada--Networking player Bay Networks (BAY) delivered a plan to regain lost momentum in key markets today at Spring Networld+Interop '97.

Bay executives sketched a future for the company that will include a focus on key technology areas and markets that all the big networking players are targeting to boost revenue in the coming years: remote access, local network switching, and support for the boom in IP, the basic communications protocol of the Internet.

But it remains unclear how the company plans to differentiate itself from others in the networking hardware jungle, with Bay choosing to target the same markets that others, such as Ascend Communications and Cisco Systems, have already garnered significant market share.

The beleaguered networking player has survived a string of disappointing quarters and an executive shuffle and is looking to reintroduce a new era within the company under the leadership of its new chairman, president, and CEO, David House.

The morning briefing on product plans followed a keynote speech Monday night by House. "The thing that Bay has been known for is its technological powers," the executive told a packed room. "Look at the track record, the facts."

The company's plan includes the following:

  • New switches that are "agnostic to frames or ATM (asynchronous transfer mode)," or in other words, span the ATM and Ethernet-based networked world. The rollout will include upcoming shipment of SwitchNode, a routing switch that offloads IP data streams from overloaded routers.

    In the first quarter of next year, the company also plans to deliver its own take on the Big Fast Router (BFR) concept, which can route data at speeds of multiple gigabits per second.

  • A new autosensing 10/100-mbps Ethernet switch for fiber-based networks and a low-cost 10-mbps box in the third quarter of this year. The company will also enhance its popular 5000 switch line with 10/100 capabilities and Gigabit Ethernet uplinks by the first quarter of next year.

    On the remote access side, Bay plans to be a player in the emerging wide area access concentrator market by the second quarter of 1998.

    In a curious move, House chose to repeat, almost verbatim, his keynote words from Monday evening at this morning's press briefing. In his comments at both occasions, he characterized the current era in networking as a "PC-ization" of the industry, a notion he may be comfortable with after his many years at Intel. But that view may lose sight of the inherent complexities of networking, such as Quality of Service enhancements and policy-based software functionality, both of which allow administrators to govern use of their networks, according to some analysts.

    Some surmised that the company should have unveiled the road map a year ago in order to offer customers timely solutions, since many competitors are already delivering some of the functionality Bay included in its plans. "I call it 'block and tackle,'" said Craig Johnson, principal analyst for Current Analysis. "They're refocusing on the so-called sweet spots of the market.

    "The question is, will the market pass them by in the time it takes for them to regroup?" he said.

    Bay may have gained some time by freezing current customers with promises of next-generation technology. Now it is up to the engineers at the Santa Clara, California-based company to promptly deliver, according to some, or risk reinforcing the current perception that Bay comes late to market with products.