3Com Ups the Ante

The company looks to differentiate itself from rival Cisco with open services networking.

3Com—in a style befitting Burger King—wants to set itself apart from dominant networking provider Cisco Systems by telling customers "have it your way" in a new Open Services Networking initiative its launching Jan. 29.

As enterprises seek to integrate advanced services such as security, compliance, mobility and more into their network fabrics, 3Coms new initiative is intended to give customers a greater choice of which services they add by providing a Linux-based server integration platform for systems integrators, managed service providers and large enterprises that allows such services to be integrated into 3Com routers and switches.

The Marlboro, Mass., company also created the 3Com Open Network partner program in hopes of building an ecosystem of technology providers that will integrate their offerings into 3Com switches and routers through the new OSN platform.

The platform, which consists of the OSN Module and OSN Control Agent software, will enable technology partners, customers, open-source developers and 3Com itself to create integrated services applications that can exploit the network fabric for deeper integration.

Applications from four vendors already integrated, tested and certified by 3Com are: VMware, for virtualization; Converged Access, for data and voice optimization; Vericept, for information leak protection; and Q1 Labs, for flow-based behavioral anomaly monitoring. At the same time, 3Com created an open-source-based bundle of management tools for the OSN Module that includes protocol analyzer, traffic monitor, trend analysis and SLA (service-level agreement) reporting tools.

3Com also embedded into the OSN Module provisioning, management, security and control tools that communicate with the 3Com router or switch through the OSN Control Agent, which includes an open API. The OSN Control Agent provides secure access to switching and routing features such as QOS (quality of service) parameters or traffic redirect.

The OSN initiative is designed to give the market a third way to solve the problem of integrating advanced services such as compliance, security, application optimization, network visibility and more into the network fabric, said Scott Hilton, vice president of product line management for 3Com.

"What were seeing is theres two choices the markets presented to solve that [integration] problem: One is an all-in-one, single vendor that you have to wait for them to innovate or acquire. The other is the multivendor, best-of-breed appliances, where you get best of breed but now you have a management and a scale problem," Hilton said. "Were opening the network the way Linux opened up the server market."

Enterprises can benefit from the OSN program by getting a greater level of customization and choice, said Howard Hall, vice president of corporate development at Vericept, a Waltham, Mass., partner of 3Com. "Our type of technology might be highly relevant for one company, but not another. Customers can plug and play the applications that are most applicable. Theyre not locked into a closed network with a fixed set of applications," Hall said.

The 3Com Open Network partner program, which provides development tools, labs for product testing and validation, an ON Web site with product directory listing, and more, already includes some 50 companies that 3Com has worked with over the past year.

One participating systems integrator found that the program fills a big need. "Weve done things in the past for our customers that have been almost identical to what 3Com has come out with. To home-grow something like this from the ground up is a challenge," said Christopher Cook, senior solutions engineer at U.S. North Networks, in Holyoke, Mass. "They give you a foundation, and you dont have to worry about it crumbling down—you have 3Com behind you. If youre just buying a Linux box, youre on your own."


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