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
"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
"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
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
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.