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Cisco unveils new gear for mid-size businesses

The networking leader plugs a hole in its strategy for mid-sized businesses with new technology to keep it on par with other networking equipment rivals.

Cisco Systems plugged a hole in its strategy for mid-sized businesses today with new technology to keep it on par with other networking equipment rivals.

The networking giant today unveiled three new products in a move to keep pace with 3Com, Cabletron Systems, Extreme Networks, and others in the mid-sized business market. Mid-size firms or offices typically claim 250 to 1,000 employees.

Cisco has traditionally sold its equipment to large service providers and businesses. But since many large businesses have already fulfilled their network equipment needs in the near term, Cisco has expanded its strategy to target small and mid-sized businesses to continue to grow revenue.

Over the past three years, equipment sales for the small and mid-sized markets have climbed from next to nothing to about $2.2 billion a year, according to the company.

Cisco today announced two new Catalyst "routing switch" devices aimed at the network's "core," or backbone, through which all corporate data is routed when traveling over a network. The company also announced a new switch for office buildings.

Cisco executives today said the three new products can run at gigabit Ethernet speeds, a high-speed version of fast Ethernet technology, which lets PCs communicate quickly across a company network. Some of the technology is ready to ship now, with other hardware scheduled to ship in March.

Cisco executives said the new switches fill a need for mid-sized businesses as companies grow and networks become overwhelmed with data. In the past, one of the few options for mid-sized businesses was to buy expensive equipment made for large businesses, or load up on equipment for smaller firms, analysts said.

"Before, the businesses would have to stack high-end boxes for small businesses, which might be overkill," Yankee Group analyst Michael Speyer said.

Current Analysis analyst Ron Westfall said he believes Cisco has the most complete set of technology and services for mid-sized businesses. Cisco, for example, also sells an access router that connects corporate networks to the Internet.

"3Com has some overlapping capabilities in the market, but they're more focused on the (smaller) businesses," he said. "No major vendor has dedicated distinct attention to this market like Cisco has."