Networking firms continue to launch elaborate initiatives to integrate multiple types of traffic within a single device in order to garner a share of the expected sales of this type of equipment to a variety of Internet service providers and telecommunications carriers. Some maintain that this market is ready to take off now, while others aren't so sure, believing that it will take years of upgrades before use of the technology is widespread.
The latest entrants will offer support for a Net gateway within a Siemens subsidiary's telecommunications switch, allowing 3Com's Total Control remote access hardware to commingle with the switch to deliver voice-over-IP (Internet protocol) capabilities.
IP is the dominant transmission medium for the Net and is rapidly evolving into the standard method for businesses to send traffic across their networks.
The duo won't stop there, adding support for voice, video, and data to 3Com's popular line of SuperStack II and CoreBuilder switching devices. The results of that work will be resold by Siemens under that company's brand name. The joint development between 3Com and Siemens is the result of an alliance originally announced in October of last year.
All of the enhancements will be demonstrated at the gargantuan CeBIT trade show in Hanover, Germany later this month.
3Com executives are bullish on the prospects for multimedia integration, noting the growing adoption of ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) technology within carriers and ISPs and use of IP as the dominant transport mechanism.
"You find true convergence happening at multiple levels," said Irfan Ali, vice president of worldwide marketing for 3Com's carrier systems business unit.
But to some observers, the rush to add multimedia capabilities to network devices may be premature.
"People have to see a compelling business case before implementing these," said Mary Petrosky, analyst with the Burton Group. "I think we're going to see organizations experiment with this stuff over the next two years."
Petrosky noted that as organizations update existing data-only equipment, multimedia networks will become more prevalent.
Siemens will begin trials for the Net gateway soon, with general availability expected in the second half of this year. The rebranded 3Com gear will be rolled out by Siemens in the second and third quarters. A Siemens communications server will also be resold by 3Com, due in the fourth quarter.