New 3Com switches provide POE to smallest offices

3Com is filling out the lower end of its workgroup switching gear with the introduction of two switches designed for small offices in large corporations that need to manage the gear remotely.

Office Connect Managed Switch 9 and 9 FX are eight-port desktop workgroup switches that offer full SNMP support for IT staff to manage them from a central location.

They also provide Power over Ethernet (PoE) through four of the ports to support other technology such as VoIP and Wi-Fi by providing power for IP phones and wireless access points, the company says.

If customers need more PoE ports, they can connect the ports on the switch to 3Com IntelliJack switches, four-port switches that fit into standard Ethernet wall cutouts to provide individual desks with more jacks, 3Com says.

The switches also support traffic shaping and rate limiting that can give voice traffic priority over other traffic. It can automatically identify voice traffic generated by 3Com's NBX VoIP system via tools that come standard. It can be integrated with other vendor's VoIP gear via manual configuration, the company says.

These switches offer an alternative to unmanaged but inexpensive switches from the likes of Linksys and D-Link or from buying larger and more expensive switches from 3Com. A 12-port 3Com SuperStack switch costs US$700 to US$800 and is designed more for a site that has a wiring closet, says John Sheedy, a 3Com LAN infrastructure product marketing manager.

The Office Connect 9 costs US$500 with a copper Gigabit uplink port and US$700 with a Gigabit fiber port.

By comparison, a managed Cisco Catalyst 2940 eight-port switch costs about US$800 or US$1,000, depending on whether it has a copper or fiber Ethernet uplink port, and it lacks power over Ethernet.

Customers likely won't buy these 3Com switches unless they already run 3Com shops, says Matthias Machownski, an analyst with Infonetics. "This fills in a hole in 3Com's portfolio," he says.

The new switches also support port security that associates a port with a specific device as defined by its MAC address. If a device with another MAC address plugs into that port, it is blocked from connecting to the network. Each switch can define up to 40 virtual LANs.

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