IBM Adds Ethernet Switches

IBM Token Ring users looking to migrate to cheaper Ethernet networks don't have to leave IBM if they change because the vendor last week introduced five more in a growing line of Ethernet switches.

The longtime Token Ring stalwart is fast becoming technology-agnostic, keeping antsy customers in the fold by offering a migration path to Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet. In addition, IBM priced the bulk of its Ethernet switches aggressively to combat incumbents Cisco Systems Inc., 3Com Corp., Nortel Networks and Cabletron Systems Inc.

"What IBM has to do is to offer a complete package [that] includes low pricing, reliability and service and support for users," said John Morency, an analyst at Renaissance Worldwide Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts. "Fortunately, with the exception of low pricing, these are attributes that IBM has historically been associated with."

But is it too little, too late? IBM shipped only 0.5 percent (29,200) of the more than 5.9 million switched Ethernet ports worldwide in the third quarter of last year, according to Dell' Oro Group in Portola Valley, Calif. In the fourth quarter, IBM shipped 1.2 percent (65,600) of the more than 5.5 million Ethernet switch ports.

The switches will ship in March. Pricing will start at US$56 per port. That's lower than the Big Four's prices, and IBM's boxes have the same features as comparable switches.

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