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Cisco tacks on server connections

As part of an ongoing effort to focus on remote access, Cisco adds modules to increase connection support for branch office servers.

Cisco Systems (CSCO) will unveil several new modules for its corporate branch office servers tomorrow, part of the company's ongoing effort to tighten its focus on remote access hardware and software.

The hardware modules, intended for Cisco's 3600 line of remote access servers, will expand the array of connections supported, adding local and wide area network connection options. The move follows Cisco's enterprise AccessPath introduction two weeks ago; that box is expected to compete with gear from remote access kingpin Ascend Communications.

The new enhancements to the ISDN-based box include support for asynchronous connections, with 16- and 32-port modules available; a module to support a Fast Ethernet connection; a four-port Ethernet module; a four-port module for serial connections; and a hardware compression module, which increases performance over dial-up or leased lines.

Cisco officials believe the box can solve the remote access issues facing many large remote offices that require a variety of flexible connection options to do business.

Analyst research indicates the remote access market will continue to experience substantial growth through the end of the century. Prices for the modules start at $2,600 depending on the model. They are available now.

Future directions for the 3600 platform include continued LAN-to-LAN routing enhancements, additional support for high-speed links, and merging as many dial-up functions into the box as possible, according to Paul Lammerding, a Cisco product line manager.

"I think they're very serious about being a significant, if not the significant, player in this space," noted Virginia Brooks, director of network research for the Aberdeen Group consultancy. "It's definitely a solid evolution for the Cisco product."

"My sense is that branch and remote office guys are realizing that there is more they can and want to do with remote access," she said.

Also expect Cisco to wrap its work on carrying voice traffic over a data network into the 3600, providing a branch office with a savings mechanism on their long distance bills to headquarters. Lammerding said the company plans to "move aggressively in this space" by using "various WAN transport mechanisms" to support voice traffic.