Nortel readies VPN, convergence wares

Nortel Networks beginning this month and continuing into early next year, will spruce up its offerings for enterprises, as well as for small to midsize businesses, with products to enhance network convergence, virtual private networks (VPNs), and connectivity to remote locations.

As part of its plans, the company later this month will add Layer 3 switching capabilities to its Accelar 8000 enterprise campus switches. According to Nortel officials, this will be done via modular attachments, called blades.

Layer 3 capabilities provide for wire-speed routing, based on IP addresses, eliminating bottlenecks associated with lower-level switching, and extending the system to metropolitan area networks (MANs), Nortel officials explained.

Also on tap for Accelar, in early 2000, is an ATM interface for MAN support.

The company plans to release during winter 2000 a host of products for small to midsize businesses -- those with 500 or fewer employees -- as well as for enterprise-level branch offices.

The company sees a substantial market opportunity in providing products for smaller companies. Enabling voice calls to run on the same network as data, a concept known as voice over IP, is a critical focus for Nortel in its efforts to target these businesses.

"There's as much as 70 percent of the PCs out at the small and medium-size businesses that are not connected yet," said Jim Vogt, vice president and general manager of workgroup products at Nortel, in Santa Clara, California.

A key element of the product launch is release 7.1 of the company's Instant Internet VPN software, which will enable companies to set up VPNs without requiring a single, centralised router to administer the networks.

Other components of the company's early-2000 launch include the BayStack 920 firewall, which provides similar services to virus-protection software on PCs. It is scheduled to ship in May 2000.

Nortel's Windows NT-based Inca M10 LAN system for unified voice and data communications will gain a component known as the Connection Manager, which enables sending of voice packets via IP systems.

Also detailed by the company for early-2000 release were model 4460 of the Passport router, featuring voice-over-IP support and integrated routing, and Passport 2430, a multiservice WAN-access switch for small to midsize businesses. The 4460 and the 2430 are both due out in February 2000.

Zeke Crater, a network manager at Queen's Medical Center, in Honolulu and a Nortel user, applauded the company's plans to extend voice and data integration to smaller businesses.

"In my particular shop, [an integration strategy] is important to us as a Nortel user because we are anticipating in two to three years merging our voice and data networks" to save costs, Crater said.

Nortel plans a new iteration of the BayStack 600 series wireless LAN system. This model, the Baystack 670, will comply with the 802.11 standard for 11Mbps data transmission, according to Nortel officials. The system, scheduled to ship in March 2000, will enable users to run voice and data services in the same manner as they would on a wired network.

The company also plans to release its Instant Internet 430/Norstar small-business telephone key system, for running voice and data via the same WAN link. It is expected to ship in the summer of 2000, according to officials at Nortel.

Also on tap for the company's small to midsize business strategy are electronic-commerce-related items. As part of the strategy, Nortel plans to support customers via integration of services, ranging from call centres to sales support.

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