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Bay revamps pricing on Ethernet gear

Network managers may have to hire an extra person just to keep track of pricing in the Ethernet-based networking gear market.

Network managers may have to hire an extra person just to keep track of pricing in the Ethernet-based networking gear market.

The latest vendor to undercut rivals on low-end infrastructure hardware is Bay Networks (BAY), which will introduce two new Ethernet switches and four new hubs next week.

The company plans to offer a new Ethernet desktop switch for under $100 a port and a LAN (local area network) alternative for $125 a port. A new series of hubs will come to market at less than $50 per managed port.

The new Bay prices come in just under pricing from some competitors, like 3Com, and significantly under pricing from others, such as Cisco Systems.

"You're just going to see one-upsmanship between companies from quarter to quarter," said Skip MacAskill, an analyst Gartner Group.

Bay is hoping to retain and expand its position in the departmental networking market in the face of competition based on features and pricing from traditional rivals such as 3Com and Hewlett-Packard, as well as relative newcomers like Intel and Compaq Computer.

Cisco is also in the mix, though sales of their workgroup gear tends to coincide with an enterprisewide rollout of high-end switches and routers.

"What they're looking at doing is shoring up their strengths in the workgroup campus LAN," said MacAskill of Bay's launch.

According to data from the Dell'Oro Group, a market researcher, Bay was third, behind 3Com and Cisco, in revenue derived from LAN switching and hubs for the first quarter of this year. But Bay shipped nearly twice as many ports as Cisco for the period.

Much of Bay's new-found pricing pressure is derived from the acquisition of NetICs last December, an Acton, Massachusetts-based maker of Ethernet switches that include Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) chip technology, which allows hardware to be tuned for specific applications.

The new gear, which will ship immediately, is made up of 12-port BayStack 304 and 24-port BayStack 303 Ethernet switches, both with one auto-sensing 10/100-mbps (megabits per second) Ethernet port. The series of new BayStack hubs includes two 12-port and two 24-port models with or without integrated network management modules for remote diagnostic capabilities. The new hubs can be stacked in racks of 8, allowing for 192 ports of capacity.

Bay officials stressed that the new models fit into their strategy to provide "adaptive networking" for customers. They offer price competitive gear for departments that feed into a network center, facilitating support for Ethernet and IP-based schemes.