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Resurrected tech firm takes Digital name

A long-lost computer systems company once known for its technological expertise has been resurrected, in part, as a networking company.

A long-lost computer systems company once known for its technological expertise has been resurrected, in part, as a networking company.

Digital Networks, once a networking division of Digital Equipment and Cabletron Systems, has adopted the name after its former parent. Digital Equipment was at one time a systems giant that rose to prominence selling computers that were alternatives to mainframe computers during the 1980s and 1990s in the Boston region. It has since been gobbled by Compaq Computer.

Digital Networks has made networking equipment for businesses since the mid-1970s, but it has jumped from owner to owner the past few years, first as the networking arm of former computer hardware maker Digital Equipment, then as a unit of Cabletron.

Now the transient networking business operates as an independent company out of Andover, Mass., catering to the networking needs of thousands of its business customers. The six-month-old company will highlight its newfound status at the Network+Interop networking industry trade show in Las Vegas next week.

"Our customers say it's great to see the Digital logo again, and our employees were enthused," said Lee Knoch, a Digital Networks executive vice president. Company executives said they struck a deal with Compaq Computer, which now owns Digital Equipment, to use the old Digital logo.

Digital Equipment first sold its networking business to Cabletron in 1997. But last year, when Cabletron decided to split into four different companies that focused on high-growth markets, the slow-growing Digital networking unit no longer fit in Cabletron's plans.

Cabletron first decided to sell the Digital unit to a technology acquisition firm called Gores Technology Group last May. But when that deal fell through, Cabletron then sold it in September to a pair of private investors who own Vnetek Communications, a company that sells used networking equipment.

Digital Networks executives say they now hope to augment its loyal base of customers with new corporate networking equipment for businesses. The company's various products compete against the likes of Cisco Systems, 3Com, Extreme Networks and others, they say.

Digital Networks still taps into a large base of Digital Equipment's customers. Compaq, which now sells Digital Equipment's products, is a big customer for Digital Networks, executives say.

"Our strategy is twofold. We're mostly talking so far to our installed customer base. They have a clear understanding that we are unique in protecting their investments," Knoch said. "But we want to make sure other customers who don't have our products know what we have to offer?" That would include products that are targeted at small- and midsize businesses and divisions of larger businesses, Knoch said.

Because Digital Networks is private, Knoch declined to comment on the company's overall revenue and goals for sales growth. In the past, Cabletron executives have said Digital's networking customers historically accounted for $500 million to $600 million in sales of networking equipment a year.