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Cabletron hones rebound strategy

The sagging company rests much of its plan on a relatively new market opportunity for Cabletron: communications services.

Cabletron Systems is hanging much of its rebound strategy on a relatively new market opportunity for the company: communications services.

Whether the target is a traditional Internet service provider (ISP) like EarthLink, an emerging data-based competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC), or a cable operator, Cabletron believes it can attract a new type of customer. The goal is to resume growing in a networking industry that's been expanding rapidly.

As part of its corporate re-vamp, announced last week in conjunction with company earnings, Cabletron will next month roll out service provider and telecommunications-oriented updates for key networking technologies. The updates were previously disclosed to CNET late last summer.

"We're ripe for a turnaround," said Mike Scubisz, Cabletron's chief technology officer, in a recent interview. "I think we've really come to grips with what we need to do."

The new ISP business unit will include hardware from two purchases made last year by the firm, as well as wide area network (WAN)-oriented enhancements to Cabletron's emerging core product, the SmartSwitch Router device.

Add to the hardware side an increasingly focused effort to expand the horizons of the company's Spectrum network management software tools, and company executives believe they have an opening.

"I challenge anyone to find a service provider that has deployed one vendor end-to-end," said Trent Waterhouse, senior architect at Cabletron.

To make Spectrum more palatable, Cabletron will next week formally take the wraps off a strategy to incorporate directory services software into its own technology, adding to recent efforts to integrate with Novell's NDS.

As part of a road map that extends into next year, the company plans to utilize the work it has done with Novell, Netscape Communications, and Microsoft to make its own software more aware of network resources, policies, and active applications. Among the results will be new client-focused software for the company's hardware and new policy and accounting-oriented applications for Spectrum. Delivery dates and pricing are still unclear.

Spectrum was recently spun into its own business unit. The ISP unit, to be headed by Romulus Pereira, and its technology direction are expected to formally roll out in advance of this year's Networld+Interop networking industry trade show.

Executives said Spectrum has already been deployed in many of the largest telecommunications networks in the world. In addition, network hardware the company acquired from the former Digital Equipment has been a mainstay within certain segments of service provider network access points, allowing Cabletron to return to those sites dangling upgrades, the company said.

Industry observers have been waiting for signs of life from the struggling Cabletron. The company lost 2 percent market share in the networking equipment market, leaving it as the fifth-largest firm in the industry, according to research firm Cahners In-Stat Group. The networking market as a whole grew nearly 18 percent for the year, according to the firm.