3Com Advances Open Networking Initiative

The new branch office router platform hosts third-party advanced services.  More applications and services are on tap in OSN Initiative.

A year after launching its Open Services Networking strategy, 3Com on Jan. 21 will introduce a new Multi-Service Routing platform to support the initiative along with new OSN partners adding more services.

It seems 3Com's initiative to open its routing platform to third parties to add more services is part of a growing trend among networking providers to give customers more choices and the ability to add services based on open-source software.

Extreme Networks is one of the earliest vendors to open its networking platform to third-party development, and Juniper Networks joined the fray late last year when it opened its JUNOS routing software to select partners.

The new MSR adds a branch and regional office router platform for enabling OSN applications to the existing 3Com Router 6000 series. It is also aimed at MSPs (managed services providers) looking to reduce operational costs and improve security.

3Com's approach contrasts with that of its rival Cisco Systems, which to date has only offered its own advanced networking services within its Integrated Services Router.

"Instead of doing it all ourselves, we are partnering with best-of-breed companies and open-source companies, and we're allowing systems integrators or service providers to develop services on our architecture," said Peter Doggart, senior director of open services networking at 3Com, in Marlboro, Mass.

To date 10 such applications or services have been developed for 3Com's OSN. New in the Jan. 21 launch is a 3Com Asterisk IP PBX along with Expand Networks Compass WAN optimization/application acceleration services.

Existing applications or services that already work with 3Com's OSN are VMware server virtualization, Converged Access voice and data optimization, Vericept information leak protection, and Q1 Labs flow-based behavioral anomaly monitoring, along with an open-source bundle of management tools that include the Wire Shark protocol analyzer, a traffic monitor, trend analysis and the Nagios Service Level Agreement reporting tool.

Read more here about 3Com's introduction of routers for SMBs.

The third-party services run on Open Services Modules within the router that essentially provide a Linux-based processor that integrates into the backplane of the router chassis.

New MSR customers at wireless ISP Everus Communications found 3Com's approach to be just as competitive as Cisco's ISR but at a much better price, according to John Tinholt, director of IP at the service provider in Kitchener, Ontario.

"I think that what they're doing is a really ideal way of basically taking a top-of-the-line routing hardware device and incorporating the ability to use open-source software with it. Because the open-source movement is becoming stronger and playing a bigger part of all providers' networks, this is a great way to combine the two," he said.

Also coming shortly are new multivendor network change and configuration management from LineSider and video on demand from VBrick Systems.

Unlike competitive approaches such as the Juniper Networks Partner Solution Development Platform, 3Com believes its approach makes it "a lot simpler for our partners to develop applications on this by giving them this blade," according to Jonathan Zarkower, senior product manager for enterprise routing at 3Com.

"Expand didn't have to make any modifications to their code. The control agents we're developing in-house take care of that. So for partners it's trivial to have their apps run on the platform," he added.

The trend to open up routers to take on more and more advanced services also reflects the commoditization of the technology, said Steve Schuchart, principal analyst for enterprise networking systems at Current Analysis, in Sterling, Va.

"The truth of the matter is that basic routing and services on a router are not all that hard to produce anymore, so you have to bring extra value in the form of software services. What else that platform can do is becoming more important. 3Com and company are making it possible to bring all that functionality in the router and reduce the total number of devices that need to be managed at the branch," he said.

The new MSR is available now in three models that provide a range of performance and capacity.

The chassis range from $1,050 to $6,380. The 3Com Asterisk application is available from 3Com starting at $995.