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Cisco merges network traffic

Interop Cisco says its new system to accommodate voice, data, and multimedia traffic on the same network line can save customers a packet.

Interop Cisco Systems (CSCO) will use the Spring Networld+Interop '97 stage next week to unveil a new line of networking hardware that enables voice, data, and multimedia traffic to run over the same pipe, CNET NEWS.COM has learned.

The new Cisco 3800 Multi-Service Switching Access Concentrator line shores up another product segment and will appeal to telecommunications carriers and Internet service providers.

By combining WAN (wide area network) links, LAN (local area network) pipes such as Ethernet, and routing protocols, customers can reduce the tariffs they pay to send various forms of data across a leased line. "They can save a lot of money," noted Byron Henderson, director of marketing for the Cisco 3800 line.

Cisco officials also see a fit for the 3800 line within enterprises adding Internet access and video distribution capabilities to their networks. The new boxes can provide a central point of access to a corporate backbone network for remote sites.

The concentrator market is one of the fastest growing niches in the booming remote access field. The equipment can handle incoming voice and Internet-based traffic in a single box, making it attractive to administrators and ISPs with sprawling operations.

Traffic through the concentrator is routed using Cisco's Internetworking Operating System (IOS), a sign that the company will extend the software beyond its router-based roots to its switching systems as well.

"This is their first integration of the routing stuff into the StrataCom side," noted Craig Johnson, principal analyst for market watcher Current Analysis. "They're finally moving their software out of the router side of the business."

The 3800 line includes three boxes--the 3810, 3830, and 3880--with the numbers corresponding with the one-slot, three-slot, and eight-slot versions of the product. The 3800 series supports T1 and E1 links, as well as Token Ring, Ethernet, IP, IPX, and all the usual routing protocols.

Cisco purchased StrataCom in April of last year for $4 billion, the company's largest acquisition to date. The move allowed Cisco to become a player in markets then dominated by Fore Systems and Cascade Communications.

The 3800 line will be available in June, with prices starting at $3,395 for the 3810, $4,995 for the 3830, and $6,040 for the 3880.