3Com sharpens business focus

Following its decision last week to discontinue its line of consumer cable and DSL modems and intensify its focus on the business market, 3Com has unveiled three new routers and a network management suite aimed at the small- and mid-size business segment.

3Com's new switches are part of the company's strategy to keep up with market requirements, according to Martha Young, an analyst with the Enterprise Management Associates research firm. Applications such as VOIP (voice over IP) are driving the demand for more robust, faster switching products in the network, she said.

3Com's new flagship switch will be the SuperStack 3 Switch 4400. The device will offer high-performance, non-blocking wire-speed switching on 24 ports, as well as stack-wide trunking, a redundant power supply, and auto-sensing features that eliminate the need for users to configure the switch to match the network infrastructure. The 4400 will sell for US$1,750. The 4400 also uses Layer 4 prioritization techniques to deliver business application intelligence to the edge of the network, according to Nick Hallwood, director of 3Com's enterprise business segment.

The Switch 4005, essentially a more affordable version of the Switch 4007 device, offers wire-speed Layer 3 switching at "less than half the price" of competing devices, Hallwood said. The 4005 is listed at $9,995.

Finally, the SuperStack 3 Switch 4300 is aimed at delivering high-density, high-performance switching to the desktop aggregation market. The 4300 offers 48 10/100 ports, non-blocking wire-speed switching, and an estimated $51-per-port price tag. 3Com officials said the 4300 would sell for $2,995.

3Com also came out with Version 3.0 of its network management software, now known as Network Supervisor. The new version features packet prioritization, intelligent event logging, paging and mobile device event alerts, and automatic device discovery.

According to Hallwood, Network Supervisor was designed with an eye toward simplicity.

"Customers are saying that, while they want to understand what's happening in their networks, they don't want to have to invest in the resources or the training to use a product like HP OpenView," Hallwood said. "It clearly has very strong capabilities, but unless you're using it every day, it's very difficult to access all of those capabilities."

Explaining its plans to refocus, 3Com cited low profitability in the consumer modem market due to a glut of competing vendors.

"Our strategy is to focus on businesses and service providers," said Bruce Clafin, 3Com's president, in a statement. "These are areas that play to 3Com's strengths."

"This has been an ongoing transition for 3Com," Young said.

As part of its goal to save $1 billion in cost savings, 3Com discontinued two consumer products in March: the Audrey Web-browsing device and the Kerbango Internet Radio appliance.

"The consumer space is a really hard market to be profitable in," Young added. "If anybody was going to be profitable in the consumer space, it would have been 3Com, just because of the mindshare they have. But it wasn't profitable for them, and there's no point in throwing good money after bad."

According to a company statement, 3Com will continue to market enterprise routers and high-speed modems. The company also said that it would honor existing customer orders and warranties for the discontinued modems.

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