Netgear ups the switching ante in the SMB market

Netgear Inc. next week is expected to jump into the Layer 3 Gigabit switch market with a 24-port box that can act as a hardware-based LAN router for small and midsize nets.

The GSM7324 will have 24 ports of 10/100/1000M bit/sec Ethernet and the ability to shunt packets based Layer 3 IP address information. The managed box (supporting Simple Network Management Protocol) will also include four fiber Gigabit port insert slots for adding uplinks connections.

In addition to basic hardware-based Layer 3 routing, the switch will also support advanced routing protocols such as Router Information Protocol (RIP) versions 1 and 2, Open Shortest Path First (OSPF) protocol, and Virtual Redundant Router Protocol, for configuring two routers in a hot-standby setup.

Netgear held 9 percent of the worldwide Ethernet port shipments in 2002 (selling more ports than Nortel Networks Corp., Extreme Networks Inc. and Foundry Networks Inc. combined, according to Gartner Dataquest). But it only played in the basic Layer 2 switch market, with its customer base consisting largely of small businesses and home network buyers.

With its new switch, observers say, the Nortel spin-off company is counting on more demand for advanced features - such as hardware-based routing and Gigabit Ethernet - from sophisticated SMB customers. The move could also help it fend off Dell, which is charging hard after the same SMB market, but does not offer a full Layer 3 box.

The GSM7324 is available in the US now for US$3,400, or around US$135 per port, and comes with a five-year warranty.

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