3Com secures Net for business

The company plans to use its internetworking hardware and software to provide virtual private networking services to carriers and network service providers.

3 min read
3Com (COMS) is willing to wager that communications service providers will come to them for upgrades when the market for secure connections over the Net explodes.

Next week, 3Com will lay out a road map to use its internetworking hardware and software to provide VPN (virtual private networking) services to carriers and network service providers, according to sources. A VPN connection allows users--via the use of tunneling technology--to send data across the Net securely.

The VPN thrust is one of several initiatives expected from 3Com now that it has had a chance to integrate some of the technology acquired in the U.S. Robotics merger into its plans. The Santa Clara, California-based networking giant may be well positioned to take advantage of VPN technology in some respects, according to industry observers, given its strength at the end points of networks, sometimes called the network "edge."

But some wonder how 3Com will do, given that VPNs often will be sold as part of an outsourcing arrangement with large service providers. 3Com has yet to make large inroads in these "backbone" networks, which interconnect companies across wide geographic regions via the use of routers from the likes of Cisco Systems, according to analysts.

"VPN deployment will become big over time, but like anything, it's mostly hype at this juncture," said Craig Johnson, principal analyst with market watcher Current Analysis. "The real question is when customers will trust the Net for business transactions."

"I think this is yet another road map from 3Com," Johnson continued, noting recent strategy announcements from 3Com in the network management and switching arenas. "My concern is they're throwing out yet another marketing plan without any reality behind it."

The VPN concept will be garnering greater attention in the industry as more and more software providers are including technology to implement VPNs. Heavyweight Microsoft recently announced plans to include VPNs in its server-side Windows NT operating system.

Internetworking vendors are falling over themselves to join the VPN push, with remote-access player Shiva among the latest to embrace the concept via a VPN-oriented partnership with Canadian networking monster Northern Telecom, announced earlier this week.

Particulars of the 3Com rollout include five new service packages for VPN deployment, two of which are available now. The services combine the company's TranscendWare internetworking operating system and services with gear from 3Com and USR.

Available now are:

  • Wholesale access service: an offering that allows providers to lease secure access from third parties to expand the geographic reach of their networks.

  • Remote-access outsourcing: allows enterprise corporate network administrators to contract remote-access services with third parties, allowing users to dial into a service provider to gain access to internal corporate resources.

    On tap for the first quarter of 1998 are rollouts of virtual leased lines, distributed remote access, and Net-based remote-access services.

    The services combine existing technology that allows 3Com to put a "stake in the ground" that they will be coming after carrier and service provider business. Cisco dominates this space, and some analysts believe late entrants in the segment for service provider dollars may have to fight over the emerging market outside the United States, where networks are not necessarily as sophisticated.