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Networkers fight for remote

As the remote access market grows, network players jump to expand their product lineups for small businesses, enterprise networks, and service providers.

Networking players continue to gang-tackle the booming remote access market in an effort to expand their lineup of wares for small businesses, enterprise networks, and service providers.

Shiva (SHVA), Cisco Systems, and Cabletron Systems (CS) are among the companies announcing new hardware targeted at different customers but with the same intent: provide a platform to satisfy the insatiable appetites of businesses with increasingly mobile work forces and providers that just want more and more modems.

Why all the fuss over remote access? Market research firm the Gartner Group estimated that there will be more than 100 million remote users worldwide by the year 2002, double the number estimated for the year 2000. Half of those users are expected to be in the United States.

Other research houses have come to a similar conclusion. International Data Corporation has determined that client-side remote access revenue will more than double by the year 2001. For every client looking to dial in, there have to be server-side boxes like those being provided by Cisco Systems and Shiva.

Addressing the corporate networking space, Cisco rolled out a new mid-range access server that can handle up to 120 analog or ISDN (integrated services digital network) modem calls over a single dial-in number. Via Cisco's IOS (internetworking operating system) software, the new box--intended for high-end enterprise networks and Internet service providers (ISPs)--can also handle data encryption, data compression, and point-to-point protocol (PPP) functions.

The company, which already announced an AS 5200 access server and a high-end AccessPath box earlier this year, has incorporated technology acquired in a deal with Telebit. The technology, called MICA, allows the simultaneous analog and ISDN support.

Included within the 5300 model are 10 mbps and a 10/100-mbps auto-sensing port so that users can gain high-speed connections to their local networks.

Enterprise remote access boxes are a lucrative niche for companies. Ascend Communications has built a huge business from being an early entry in the space. Cisco will ship the new hardware in November with prices starting at $44,960. Pricing for the AS 5200 will be cut to $21,300. The box supports modems from Microcom.

Continuing the remote access trend, Shiva debuted a new mid-range box in its line for mid-sized ISPs and corporate networks that supports the K56flex-based modem standard floated by Rockwell and Lucent Technologies. The LanRover D56 includes support for the 56K modems as well as ISDN. All in all, 12 to 24 modems are supported in the gear.

Pricing for the box starts at $6,999. Cards supporting the 56K modems are also shipping for the enterprise LanRover Access Switch.

Targeting the low end of the market, Cabletron announced a new ISDN CyberSwitch 100 line of remote access gear that offers small offices and remote sites Internet and intranet connections for less than $800. The box caters to the small-business market via use of a series of software "wizards" to guide users through configuration of the box. Individual Internet Protocol (IP) addresses for PCs are automatically dished out by the box.

Unlike the Shiva and Cisco gear, the new CyberSwitch is targeted at sites looking to get out on the network. But like corporations and ISPs, the gear has a similar goal of expanding remote access capacity.