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Networkers push remote access

Networking in D.C. is not just doing lunch anymore. Industry players are using the ComNet '97 show to launch products and strategies.

WASHINGTON--Networking in our nation's capital used to mean an exchange of business cards, a handshake, talking shop over coffee.

Now it also brings to mind broadband access gear, switches, multiplexers, FRADS (Frame Relay Access Devices), and other such complex networking hardware that will be on display this week at ComNet '97.

The annual ComNet networking trade show used to flow from the well-oiled business relationship between computer companies and the federal government. The show has since evolved from those market-specific roots to embrace the booming networking industry as a whole, particularly those products focused on providing wide area network (WAN) connectivity for corporations.

Heavyweights such as 3Com (COMS) and Bay Networks (BAY) are among those ready to roll out products and strategies for the perked-up ears of network administrators in attendance.

3Com will use the ComNet stage to unveil a Virtual Private Network (VPN) strategy for networks based on the Internet Protocol (IP), the dominant Net standard. The company will include support for the Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) in its remote access gear to allow companies to establish "virtual" networks over the public network, according to sources. Security features to make use of the Internet for networking will be part of the announcement.

Bay Networks also will focus on its remote access capabilities at the show, debuting a remote-access module for its 5000 MSX switching chassis, so that remote access to the network can be incorporated to the same box as a network's switching capabilities.

Absent from this year's ComNet will be much of the hype and hyperbole related to cutting-edge technologies such as Gigabit Ethernet, a new kind of pipe that is currently in the latter stages of the standards process. Expect this spring's Networld+Interop show to be the forum for Gigabit Ethernet strategies and rollouts.

Here's a small sampling of other ComNet announcements forthcoming this week:

  • Network General (NETG) will announce a new outsourcing service for its network performance gear that will allow a Network General Sniffer customer to bring in the company onsite, or via remote access to networks, to troubleshoot problems.

  • Sentient Networks will showcase a new technology that allows Frame Relay and ATM networks to share the same port. The new Ultimate 1000 switch incorporates an "any network service on any network port" feature that is targeted at network service providers who want to offer an array of enhanced services for customers.

  • Optical Data Systems will debut an InfiniteSwitch line of networking hardware for Ethernet and Fast Ethernet-based topologies. A single chassis can include up to 384 Ethernet or 144 Fast Ethernet ports. The InfiniteSwitch line also includes uplinks for ATM and Fiber-Distributed Data Interface (FDDI) backbone pipes. Support for Gigabit Ethernet is expected later this year.

    The ComNet show opens tomorrow and continues through Thursday. Featured keynote speakers include former Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes and Cisco Systems President and CEO John Chambers.