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3Com aims for the 10-Gigabit future

New switches will come with a built-in 10-Gigabit expansion slot, intended to make it easier for customers to upgrade without replacing their hardware.

With this week's launch of a family of network switches, 3Com is gearing up for the days when desktop connections of 1 gigabit per second are the norm.

The SuperStack 3 Switch 3870 family is the first line of stackable Gigabit Ethernet switches to include a built-in 10-Gigabit expansion slot, according to 3Com.

The new line is aimed at companies that need a Gigabit Ethernet switch today but want the option of making the jump to 10-Gigabit Ethernet in the future without having to replace their switches.

Marlborough, Mass.-based 3Com says the expansion slot brings added scalability to a company's network. If utilized, it gives workers faster connectivity at their desks than would be the case with a 1gbps or 100mbps switch. A 10-Gigabit Ethernet switch can be used to provide 10 simultaneous 1gbps connections from individual desktops to internal systems such as mail and file servers.

"As a first of its kind with a 10-Gigabit expansion slot, the SuperStack 3 Switch 3870 offers IT managers worldwide the performance and flexibility of triple-speed Gigabit at price points that (we) would typically associate with (traditional) Ethernet technologies," said Tim Jalland, 3Com's senior director of product management.

A 48-port version of the 3870 switch will cost $5,995, while a 24-port version will cost $3,995. Both should go on sale in June.

Realistically, few companies need to upgrade to 10-Gigabit Ethernet today. Still, with hardware prices falling sharply during the last few months, network managers are being encouraged to plan for a future in which their users run applications that demand this extra bandwidth.