3Com turns focus to NICs

3Com turns focus to NICs

3Com this week outlined plans to enhance its network interface cards (NICs), making a pair of announcements that return the company's focus to its largest business.

The networking vendor, facing formidable competitors including Cisco and an emboldened Lucent, plans to bolster its NICs with security hardware and mobile-system configuration software.

A coprocessor, to be announced this week, is designed to make it more feasible for users to secure their systems in a LAN. 3Com worked with chip manufacturer VLSI to design the chip, which can perform encryption and authentication without affecting the performance of a 10Mbps or 100Mbps NIC, according to 3Com. The chip will use the IP Security standard, and 3Com has worked with Microsoft to ensure compatibility with Windows 2000 clients.

Mobile Configuration Manager

Also next week, 3Com will introduce Mobile Configuration Manager, the first of a series of software features for mobile PC NICs. The tool will allow administrators to set up multiple dial-up and LAN configurations on a mobile PC so users can easily move from one location to another. Consistent, standardised configurations can be pushed to the mobile systems through the NICs.

Analysts said the configuration software could make life easier for NIC users.

"It hides the need for you to work with the Dial-Up Networking system, which is one of the hardest parts of Windows to deal with," said Jack Gold, an analyst at the Meta Group in the US.

3Com officials said this week that the IPSec coprocessor will be one of several security enhancements coming this year.

According to one analyst, such embedded capabilities may make security easier and less expensive. "Security is becoming a greater issue, not necessarily because people are worried, but because people like it," said David Paul Doyle, an analyst at Dataquest.

NICs equipped with the IPSec coprocessor will ship in the first half of this year, officials said. Mobile Configuration Manager is available now free of charge. A later version with multivendor support will carry a fee.

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