Saying it hopes to displace Cisco Systems as the preferred vendor among small and midsize users that are upgrading their networks, 3Com announced today that it would double the port density of its Layer 4 Ethernet switch lineup with the introduction of its SuperStack 3 Switch 4400 48-port device.
The networking company began shipping a 24-port version of the same switch in June.
One user, Joe Way, network manager at the Exeter Township School District, said he has been beta-testing the 48-port 4400 and will replace much of his Cisco equipment with 3Com gear during a planned network upgrade.
The reason for the change, according to Way, is a matter of price and functionality. He said to get a 10/100M bit/sec. Cisco M2924XL 24-port switch with a Gigabit Ethernet module, for example, would have cost him $2,500 through an online reseller. From the same reseller, Way said he was able to buy the 24-port 3Com 4400 with a Gigabit Ethernet module for US$1,700. The 3Com switch also comes with a lifetime warranty, whereas Cisco offers a 90-day warranty on new purchases, Way said.
Still, "that price break is not a big deal to a shop that's committed to Cisco," said Michael Speyer, an analyst at The Yankee Group. He said 3Com's posturing against Cisco, the San Jose-based networking giant, is more of a move to get attention from potential buyers than it is to impinge on Cisco. "It's a signal from 3Com that they're much more interested in reentering the enterprise and to do so with much more vigor," Speyer added.
3Com jettisoned its large core network switching line last year in reaction to disappointing financial results (see story).
And while 3Com may like to take potshots at Cisco, Speyer said he believes 3Com will never again be a heavy hitter at the core of big enterprise networks. He added that the company "will always have a good position at the edge" [of networks].
Part of Way's upgrade strategy is to use the Layer 4 switching capabilities of the 3Com switches. That lets the Exeter school district prioritize traffic by classification among the 5,000 users in the school system. Layer 4 controls, he explained, make it possible to clamp down on MP3 music file-sharing, which can bog down a network, and automatically gives preferential treatment to voice over IP (VOIP) phone calls. He said the school district plans to roll out a new VOIP system based on 3Com's NBX technology in January.
3Com officials said the 48-port 3Com 4400 is available for shipment and priced at $3,295.