3Com switch lets companies upgrade features

Growing businesses that are still considering whether to put voice and other new applications on their LANs can buy future flexibility with a switch unveiled Tuesday by 3Com Corp.

3Com's SuperStack 3 Switch 4400 SE comes as a basic Ethernet switch but can be upgraded with the capability to prioritize some kinds of traffic, such as voice conversations that have been chopped into Ethernet packets. The software that will provide those added features is expected to become available in the second half of this year, according to the company.

The new switch joins 3Com's existing SuperStack 3 Switch 4400 lineup, which consists of 24-port and 48-port 10/100M bps (bit-per-second) Ethernet switches that come with the prioritization features.

"We've taken out those capabilities for a customer who may not need them now, but may want to add them later," said Doug Hyde, a marketing planning manager at 3Com, in Santa Clara, California.

Companies can now use their LANs for voice calls, as well as other multimedia applications, but those kinds of traffic need special treatment to make sure they arrive in a smooth and timely fashion. Basic Ethernet switches don't have the intelligence to guarantee that.

The upgrade features include support for DiffServ (Differentiated Services), a standard for prioritizing traffic at Layer 3. It also offers Layer 4 traffic redirection, which is used to identify packets from a certain application, such as Web traffic, and send it to a particular device, such as a Web caching device, according to Hyde.

The 4400 SE is available immediately worldwide, in a 24-port configuration only. Like the other 4400 series switches, it can be equipped with two Gigabit Ethernet uplinks or linked to a stack of as many as seven other 4400-series switches and fitted with a single Gigabit Ethernet uplink.

The SE model carries a list price of US$1,295, compared with a list price of $1,595 for a standard 24-port SuperStack 3 Switch 4400. The software upgrade will cost $495.

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