3Com Switches Raise the Stakes

3Com is continuing to fill in the products fulfilling its converged, secure network strategy with a pair of new switches aimed at enterprises' small branch offices and workgroups

Last week 3Com Corp. continued to fill in the products fulfilling its converged, secure network strategy with a pair of new switches aimed at enterprises small branch offices and workgroups.

The new 3Com OfficeConnect Managed Switch 9 Series Layer 2 switches raise the competitive stakes for small, managed workgroup switches with a mix of security, convergence and POE (power over Ethernet) features. They are aimed at enterprises looking to deploy the switches to multiple sites.

The eight-port switches, which include Gigabit Ethernet uplinks or a combination of 100Base FX and small-form-factor-pluggable support, extend IEEE 802.3x flow control, rate limiting and auto-classification of VOIP (voice over IP) traffic coming from 3Com NBX IP PBXes to small desktop switches.

The switches provide several enterprise-class features to enhance traffic control, security and access to the switch. Those capabilities include IEEE 802.1x network log-in and RADIUS authentication in accessing the device and the ability to lock down a port on a MAC (media access control) address and do QOS (quality of service) analysis for particular applications such as VOIP, said a company official in Marlboro, Mass.

Security in the new switches is "good," and they are easy to configure, according to beta user Tom Moore, vice president of operations at SPD-1 Logistics, in Hazelwood, Mo.

With the number of branch offices growing among midsize and large enterprises and the trend toward centralizing IT staff, remote manageability of the switches is key, according to the 3Com official.

Other advanced features not typically found in products of this class include support for as many as 60 VLANs (virtual LANs), IP multicast filtering and manually configured traffic prioritization. Four of the eight ports on the switches support POE, allowing users to connect wireless access points to the devices.

"In an office with a very small number of people there is little chance youll have someone with network savvy to troubleshoot problems within the office. There is no network guru," said the 3Com official.

SPD-1 Logistics is connecting IP phones to the switches. Moore found the faster Gigabit Ethernet uplink to be a big help in improving the performance of the VOIP traffic coming from the switches.

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The low-cost switches, priced starting at $495, are designed to be centrally managed via SNMP and RMON. The OfficeConnect Managed Switch 9 Series competes with Cisco Systems Inc.s Catalyst 2940 switches.

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