Dell Targets Enterprise Switching

The Round Rock, Texas, vendor plans to add three additional managed switches to its PowerConnect line by the end of July

LAS VEGAS--Dell Computer Corp., after having joined the LAN switching fray eight months ago, is broadening its reach by targeting the enterprise market.

The Round Rock, Texas, vendor plans to add three additional managed switches to its PowerConnect line by the end of July, said Kim Crawford, vice president and general manager of Dell Networking, in an interview here at Networld + Interop.

The introduction, to come by the end of July, would be Dells first move into the enterprise networking space but wont be the last. Crawford said the company also is eyeing moves into Layer 3 switching-it has offered only Layer 2 so far-as well as into the 10 Gigabit Ethernet arena.

Dells PowerConnect announcements so far have focused solely on small- and midsize businesses, which Dell defines as those with fewer than 3,500 employees, Crawford said.

Dells expansion into the enterprise comes as the networking industry battles slow sales. Last year, networking experienced a 16% decline in manufacturing revenues compared to 2000, according to Cahners In-Stat Group, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

"Our timing is driven by standards," Crawford said. "There are many people in networking space who go for proprietary solutions, which as Ethernet has been driven to local area network proprietary solutions are not the answer for customers and are no longer necessary for customers. So for us the timing is actually perfect."

Dell wants to focus on networking gear where industry standards-most importantly, Ethernet-are solidified and maturing, Crawford said.

Dell also is betting strongly that the direct model on which it built its PC and server business will work with enterprise customers in networking. Crawford said Dell can leverage its relationships with thousands of enterprises in its desktop and server business to sell the networking gear and that its latest push is partly base on feedback from that base.

"The direct model is clearly going to be new and different in the networking space because we will efficiently drive specifically the products customers need and want," Crawford said.

Part of that effect, Crawford said, is more performance at lower cost. One of the three new models, the PowerConnect 5224 will include 24 Gigabit Ethernet ports at a list price of about $100 a port, below the average cost of between $300 and $500 per port, she said.

Two of the three new switches are specifically aimed at the enterprise-the PowerConnect 5224 and the PowerConnect 3248. Both are standalone switches and feature additional prioritization capabilities, supporting four priority queues instead of two as on Dells other switches, Crawford said. They also have Layer 3 and Layer 4 awareness for prioritization of traffic. The other addition is a redundant power option.

The 3248 has 48 Fast Ethernet (100Mbps) ports along with two Gigabit Ethernet ports. The 3248 will be priced under $1,500 while the 5224 will be priced under $2,400.

A third switch, the PowerConnect 3048, is an upgrade to the 3024 offering 48 Fast Ethernet ports instead of 24, along with two Gigabit ports. It straddles both the medium business and enterprise markets. It is a stackable switch that can be intermixed with 3024s, Crawford said.

Dells next targets are likely to be Layer 3 switches and 10 Gigabit, Crawford said. She declined to offer any specific timelines, but said the acceptance of standards by enterprises in those areas is reaching a turning point. Also, as Gigabit more widely reaches the desktop, enterprises will be looking to aggregate switching with 10 Gigabit, she said.