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3Com jumps back into router arena

3Com jumps back into router arena

3Com will revive another of its previously abandoned enterprise network lines next week as it launches a series of WAN routers for enterprise branch and central offices.

The 3Com Router 5000 series is designed to connect corporate sites, from small branch to large regional offices, with a variety of WAN links. The gear is also part of 3Com's strategy to offer a complete network product menu - from network interface cards to switches and routers, IP telephony and security gear - with a common management platform across the portfolio.

Observers say the router launch is a good step in 3Com's road back into large corporate networks, although image challenges linger because of the company's retreat from that market several years back.

3Com's managing director for Asia, Stanimira Koleva, said 3Com traditionally has a home in this space.

"In the last three years we have focussed on the SMB space," Koleva said. "Now we have come back to where we belong."

She was confident the company had the scope to grow by adding these large enterprise customers.

Koleva was not concerned by the fact that post-Internet boom, Cisco has virtually controlled the enterprise router space. "Every enterprise customer will be welcoming viable alternatives," she said. "We are working towards this and feel customers will appreciate having us there."

3Com distributor, Ingram Micro, was excited about the news and was hopeful it will be on hand to distribute the WAN products when they launch.

"We have a gap in our product range for mid- to high-end routers and hope to fill that with 3Com," Ingram Micro's business manager for networking, Rodney Thorne, said.

As far as the news is concerned for the Australia market, Thorne said it would "shake up" one of the vendors that is already in the market. "That is for sure," he said. Thorne did not mention the vendor, but one could safely guess it was a large and dominant networking player.

In addition to supporting a variety of WAN options, such as T-1, frame relay and ISDN, the new 5000 series boxes also include integrated IP Security VPN functionality and firewall capabilities with stateful packet inspection and traffic filtering. 3Com said quality of service was also added into the 5000 series router software, letting delay-sensitive WAN traffic - such as voice over IP - be tagged and prioritised.

The new product line includes the 5009, with a single WAN interface module slot for small branch offices, the three-slot 5231 for regional offices, and four-slot 5640 and eight-slot 5680 for consolidating WAN links at a company's headquarters. WAN modules for the 5000 series include full and fractional T-1/E-1, Primary Rate Interface, ISDN and 10/100M bit/sec Ethernet products. All 5000 series modules are interchangeable.

The 5000 series launch is a reprise of 3Com's earlier PathBuilder product line, which included WAN routing, VPN and firewall products for mid-size and large organisations. This line was discontinued in 2000, along with 3Com's CoreBuilder LAN switching line.

3Com is holding a briefing in Sydney for its tier-one systems integrators next week.

Koleva said the Australian enterprise was "by far my most important market" and the meeting was about addressing business opportunities and to strike some key relationships with its systems integrators in Australia.

3Com is taking orders for its WAN products today and hopes to complete the roll out of its entire WAN portfolio in the next 6 to 9 months.


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