NIC vendors facing tough times

NIC vendors facing tough times

Intel is working on new management capabilities for its network interface cards, as NIC vendors struggle to differentiate their products in what is becoming a commodity market.

Through its Wired for Management initiative, Intel has been trying to add new management functionality.

Greg Lang, director of OEM business for the networking products group at Intel, said that "the entire industry has to respond to the challenge" of integrating management capabilities into NICs.

The company is also working on other capabilities, including the capacity for an NIC to send an alert to the administrator if a machine does not boot, and a network-level security capability for automatic notification if a PC is disconnected from the network.

Lang said that Intel's most immediate goal is to "be the first to market in delivering wired-for-management PCs".

In the longer term, Lang said that he expected Intel to provide "a lot more integration of management capabilities into the chip set, as well as into the Ethernet silicon."

As well as heavy competition, the NIC industry is responding to the emergence of the NetPC and the management problems that they can bring.

"NICs have become more than a commodity where lowest price prevails," according to Pete Wermter, senior account executive at the Weber Group. "They now must help IS managers save time and money by making their network infrastructures work faster and smarter."

Several vendors, including 3Com (together with On Technology, McAfee Associates, and Lanworks Technologies), Intel, and IBM, have heard the call and are responding with enhanced functionality.

3Com has been working with partners on the development of a Managed PC NIC. The company hopes to release later this year a solution based on its 3C917 10/100Mbit/sec Fast Ethernet NetPC ASIC technology that will include Wake-on-LAN, Advanced Configuration and Power Interface, remote boot, Desktop Management Interface 2.0, and SNMP and RMON management.

3Com also announced its Fast Etherlink XL CardBus PC Card, which the company refers to as "the world's fastest network PC Card".

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