3Com has has been criticised by rival Cisco for releasing Gigabit Ethernet products prior to standards ratification.
3Com has announced five products in the Gigabit Ethernet market which will begin shipping in the third quarter: a Gigabit Ethernet switch, two modules for upgrading existing ethernet switches, and two network interface cards.
The company claims the products make it the only vendor able to offer a network core-to-edge Gigabit ethernet system. It is also planning to support Gigabit ethernet in its TranscendWare range of network management software.
"This is a huge opportunity for our customers," said Edgar Masri, vice president and general manager of 3Com's premises distribution division.
"We will be the first to supply stackable solutions with support for Gigabit Ethernet. We will also be the first to provide ATM to Gigabit Ethernet connectivity."
He added: "We believe that ATM and Gigabit Ethernet are not competing but complementary technologies."
But Cisco is warning users to beware of 3Com's Gigabit Ethernet products, claiming they will be released before the technology has been fully incorporated as a standard.
"Customers shouldn't take a punt on pre-standard products," cautioned Graham Vann, marketing manager at Cisco UK. "Standards have a habit of changing just before they come out."
"It may take us a few months longer to bring out devices fitting in with Gigabit Ethernet, and integrating the IoS (Cisco's Internetworking operating system), but they are on the way," added Jan Schlosser, Cisco's European product marketing manager. "We are not feeling pressurised to release these yet."
Gigabit Ethernet has not yet been formally introduced as a standard.
The Gigabit Ethernet Alliance is expected to vote on the specification this summer, with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers ratifying the standard, probably by early 1998.
3Com's new Gigabit Ethernet switch, called the SuperStack II Switch 9000, is scheduled to ship in the third quarter of this year, priced at $19,995 (#12,500). The CoreBuilder 7800, a card enabling Gigabit ethernet to ATM connectivity, will ship early next year, priced at $5,000.
Accompanying the new Gigabit Ethernet switches, 3Com initiated a series of price cuts across its other switching products. The company cut 37% off the price of its desktop switching solutions, selling 10Mb switching at $99 per port, and claiming to undercut all its competitors.
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