3Com launches terabit switching gear

3Com has introduced a family of terabit-class switches for large corporate users that are based on technology developed through a joint venture formed last year with China-based Huawei Technologies.

The Switch 8800 line is rated to provide bandwidth of 1.44Tbit/sec., said Bill Naas, director of enterprise product marketing at 3Com in Marlboro, Mass. The first two models will ship in January and are priced at US$26,000 and US$36,000, he said. Australian pricing has yet to be finalised.

3Com is one of the first vendors to provide terabit switching hardware, and it's certainly the first equipment vendor with broad switching and routing portfolios, said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at The Yankee Group.

Naas said the 8800 will be used in network backbones and other corporate applications where Gigabit Ethernet is being pushed to desktops to support large volumes of data, such as enormous video and image files.

Initial Interest

Art Jeffords, manager of networks and telecommunications at Covenant Health in Knoxville, Tenn., has been beta-testing the Switch 8814 and said it "seems to be a good product." In the next year, he expects to deploy the 8814 or a similar switch in the line at Covenant's main data center and may install others inside the group's five hospitals.

"In hospital systems, there are so many images being moved over networks, from MRIs to CT scans and more," requiring greater network capacity, Jeffords said.

Covenant Health has used 3Com switches for years. "They have been very responsive to our needs," Jeffords said.

Larry Padgett, director of network and technical services at the Palm Beach County School District in Florida, said he wants to install two switches from the 8800 family in the district's central core. "We're looking for it, and I'm tickled pink to see 3Com getting back into big iron," he said. The district, which has 160 schools and 170,000 students, is "growing immensely," Padgett said.

Some high school desktops already have Gigabit Ethernet connections, so terabit switching will soon be needed to handle data between a mainframe and more than 100 servers, he said.

Four years ago, when 3Com exited the enterprise business for a short period of time, Padgett looked at switches from Nortel Networks Ltd. and Cisco Systems Inc., but he found that 3Com's products outperformed them.

Stephen Dantinne, supervisor of technology for the Vineland School District in Vineland, N.J., said he did a similar evaluation of switching vendors eight years ago and also found that 3Com came out on top.

Terabit switching is offered by several switching vendors, including Foundry Networks, Force10 Networks, and Enterasys Networks, according to Kerravala and Steven Schuchart, an analyst at Current Analysis. But the current offerings come from vendors that don't back a range of switching and routing products, including voice-over-IP switching, Kerravala said.

"Getting out of the enterprise hurt 3Com four years ago, but they are now serious about the enterprise customer," Schuchart said. "They are getting a big payoff with Huawei."

Last month, 3Com made another key move for enterprise customers when it signed an agreement with Siemens's business services unit to gain access to 34,000 Siemens service workers globally.

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