Computerworld

Some users bypass Cisco for smaller suppliers

Although the booth of networking kingpin Cisco Systems was abuzz with browsers and buyers at Networld/Interop 2000 in Las Vegas last week, traffic was also brisk among the displays of smaller networking companies. And users have their reasons for not feeling compelled to go the Cisco route.

Jeffery Priester, global manager of networking services at Air Products and Chemicals in Allentown, Pennsylvania, for example, made a beeline for the display of Santa Clara, California-based Extreme Networks. Priester said he has standardized on Extreme's BlackDiamond line for switching at the core of his company's 12,000-node network.

"Many of the nodes are PCs, but devices like electron microscopes and other lab equipment are connected to it as well," Priester said, noting that network reliability and performance are critical to the firm's operations. Air Products manufactures and markets industrial gases and specialty chemicals.

Priester said that one reason he chose the Extreme product was its manageability. "Extreme's product line looks and works the same from the low to high end, and that makes it easy to manage," he said.

Extreme's profile was raised in March when it was designated by 3Com as the migration destination of choice for users of 3Com's discontinued CoreBuilder LAN switch line.

Yipes Communications, a San Francisco-based service provider that sets up and manages LAN-to-LAN optical connections between buildings and geographically dispersed facilities, also uses Extreme equipment. Yipes Vice President Ron Young said his company installs Extreme's Summit switches in buildings it services and aggregates traffic on BlackDiamond switches at its private internetwork points of presence.

Yipes' focus is on speed and bandwidth-on-demand, Young said. "From anywhere on the network to anywhere on the network, we have only 10 milliseconds of latency," he said.

Another company, PurchasePro.com in Las Vegas, elected to use routers and firewalls from San Jose-based Cisco for its growing business-to-business procurement service.

But on the company side of the firewall are ServerIron load balancing switches from Foundry Networks in San Jose, said PurchasePro's director of systems and network services, Brandon Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen said these "smart" switches sense and distribute traffic to the most appropriate Web server, which speeds transaction processing and keeps any one server from getting bogged down.

PurchasePro uses Foundry's BigIron switching routers at the core of its network. The routers' nonblocking architecture makes them "twice as fast as comparable switches from Cisco," Mikkelsen said.

But according to Cisco, speed isn't everything.

"You can oversubscribe a Catalyst switch," said Walt Blomquist, Cisco's product line manager for the Catalyst switching family. "But most customers are making decisions now on end-to-end approaches, which go beyond feeds and speeds to include intelligent services."