Compaq strengthens networking offerings
SYDNEY - Compaq has released a range of new networking products it hopes will highlight the seriousness of its push to be an end-to-end solution provider.
The company, which proudly boasts that it built the PC server marketplace, has made no secret of its intention to be a top three computer company by the year 2000.
"In order to become that we need to be able to be the solution provider," said Ian Harvey, business unit manager at Compaq's Communications Products Group.
"Networking - the means of connecting your desktop to the servers - is very, very important."
Compaq is seeking to build its marketshare in two ways. Firstly, it will target market sweet spots, such as Fast Ethernet migration, rather than taking on the enterprise backbone.
Secondly, it will base its sales arguments around total cost of ownership. Harvey feels Compaq can drive down costs by leveraging its penetration of server and desktop products in the corporate environment.
"We can leverage our manufacturing capability, we can bring our purchasing power to bear, we can bring our commitment to technology innovation and industry standards. We therefore can drive cost down the same as we have done with the other parts of the business."
According to a 1996 Yankee Group report, network managers spend 36 per cent of their time engaged in network management and troubleshooting activities - a costly waste of time that Harvey believes Compaq can help diminish. "If you can reduce that and allow them to spend more time in the 'think' area of network planning and design, then they're going to get a far better return on investment. Reduce the operations cost, and you save money, you reduce the total cost of ownership."
The strategy here is twofold. Harvey says Compaq will release products with built-in manageability and auto-configuration. Secondly, it will market the fact that by dealing with Compaq networking products as well as Intel-based systems users can reduce the number of vendors they deal with - leading to further support savings. "We have commonality of drivers, so that the driver that is used in the desktop for an Ethernet NIC is the same driver that's used in a server. So from a cost of ownership point of view organisations minimise the number of support points that they have to worry about.
"A lot of customers are looking now for Compaq to provide the total solution, because it's cheaper and easier."
This also goes hand in hand with having products that are low cost but feature rich. Harvey believes the price tickets attached to Compaq's new offerings will beat most of the competition.
The latest round of product offerings is designed specifically for sites looking to take a staged migration to Fast Ethernet.
It includes two new autosensing hub families. The Netelligent 2724 is a stackable, segmental hub which automatically configures ports to operate at either 10 or 100Mbit/sec, depending on the connection. "Put one of these in your wiring closet and you never need to go into the wiring closet again," said Harvey, "because the desktop will determine how fast it's going to run."
The 2724 also accommodates Compaq's new Smart Uplink module, which overcomes the inherent Fast Ethernet distance limitation and allows stacks to be connected across distances of up to two kilo-metres. The 2724 carries a suggested retail price of $4108 ($171 per port). It is complemented by the 2824 management hub, which carries an SRP of $6809.
At the low end is the unmanaged Netelligent 100, a 10Base-T hub designed for small workgroups and home offices. It comes in three configurations of five, nine and seventeen ports, at SRPs of $127, $202 and $392 respectively.
New in switching is the 5226, a 24-port 10Base-T workgroup Ethernet switch with two 100Mbit/sec uplink ports and a 1Gbit/sec backplane. The 5226 runs full duplex on all ports, and has an SRP of $3918.
Continuing in the autosensing vein is the Netelligent 5708 dual speed Ethernet switch, with eight auto-sensing 10Base-T/100Base-TX ports. This switch comes with a 1.6Gbit/sec crossbar Ethernet switch and full wire speed switching at 100Mbit/sec on all ports, at an SRP of $3687.
New token ring PCI and ISA controllers have also been released, along with the Netelligent 10 T/2 PCI and ISA UTP/Coax controller. And finally, Compaq has upgraded its Netelligent 8500 Communications Platform standards-based router, adding firewall capabilities and 100Base-FX support.
The products are managed by Compaq's recently upgraded Netelligent Management software. Version 2.0 of the management and configuration product features hierarchical maps, icons for each product, direct device connection and trap/alarm filtering, and is included free with all manageable products.
While Harvey believes many of the products are suitable for the enterprise backbone environment, he says this is not the area Compaq is concentrating on. "It's not a big market opportunity even for the existing well-entrenched players, because by and large the fortune 500 companies have got backbone networks in place. There is an opportunity to expand it, to add more bandwidth, but not necessarily at the backbone area; it's out at the fringe areas of the departmental or workgroup level.
"The real sweet spot is in migrating from base Ethernet to Fast Ethernet in the small and medium business group. It doesn't make sense to try and bring out products as 'me too' in a marketplace that's already heavily populated."
Where Harvey believes Compaq will make inroads is with sites where the issue is not bandwidth at the backbone, but at the departmental or workgroup level. "That's where the biggest opportunity is, and that's where we're going to provide most of our product focus to begin with. It's a fundamental market for us."