SMC, Asante pump out low-cost Gigabit Ethernet gear

While wireless technologies (Wi-Fi, WiMAX, MIMO, et al) grab industry attention, a good cheap Ethernet switch is still the building block for most networks. SMC and Asante this week added new products to the latter category.

SMC Networks launched its 24-port EZ Switch SMCGS24-Smart Ethernet switch, with 10/100/1000Mbps, or triple-speed Ethernet supported on all ports in the box. The device also includes four additional built-in copper and fiber Gigabit Ethernet uplink ports, which can be configured to run as either all-fiber, all-copper, or a mix of the two cabling types. Only four uplinks ports can be active at once.

The SMCGS24-Smart is an example of LAN switch features, once found in more expensive products, that are filtering down to commodity-type gear. One feature new to the SMC switch line is cable diagnostics, which allows the switch to detect faulty Category 5/6 or fiber optic cables attached to a switch port that may impede throughput or traffic quality. IGMP (Internet Group Management Protocol) snooping, a capability for setting up and managing IP multicast networks, is another feature included in the switch.

The box is available now for US$400, which is around US$14 per Gigabit Ethernet port.

Asante is offering new 24- and 48-port switches -- IC3624 and 3648 -- each with dual small form-factor pluggable (SFP) uplinks ports, which can be fitted with fiber or copper port physical interface modules. The box supports basic QoS and management technologies, including 802.1p traffic prioritization. Pricing for these switches won't be released until the first quarter of 2007, when the devices are available. Compared to other Asante Ethernet gear, customers could expect the switches to fall in the US$10-to-US$15-per-port range.

In spite of the rise in price for copper cabling, predictions of the commoditization of the Ethernet market, and analyst suggestions that money on Gigabit Ethernet could be better-spent elsewhere, industry watchers say there is some energy left in the Ethernet Switch market. Research firm Dell'Oro forecasts that for the total Ethernet switch market will grow from around US$14.6 billion in 2004 to US$18.3 billion in 2010.

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