Network managers face a choice of performance or manageability in a switch war that has erupted with 3Com's launch of its strongest challenge to Cisco in this sector, the Corebuilder 3500.
Low cost and high performance are the chief claims for the Corebuilder 3500 Layer 3 switch, the first product to use 3Com's FIRE (Flexible Intelligent Routing Engine) architecture. 3Com also said it would introduce a 9000 Enterprise Switch family in November.
But rival and market leader Cisco said that manageability, and the track record of the supplier, were more important to network managers than high bandwidth performance. Keith Lawton, marketing manager of Cisco's Emea region, said: ?3Com has said in the past you don?t need routers. They also come into the networking market from the NIC card market while Cisco has always been in the centre.
Network managers, continued Lawton, realised that, while performance was important, network management was more critical to the business. ?Pure performance is one measure but manageability is 80 to 90 per cent to them,? he said.
Part of the problem is hype, Lawton agreed. ?Business people who make decisions may be impressed by new things but are not necessarily told what they do,? he said.
Joe Frost, product marketing manager at 3Com UK, responded to Cisco?s charges by saying its products, most of which are available in November, outperform anything else.
3Com claims that the 3500 will run 10 times faster than a conventional backbone router for less cost, while the forthcoming 9000 will scale up to hundreds of gigabits in bandwidth and, when combined with FIRE, could achieve routing at 56 million packets per second.
Frost said: ?We?ve designed this  product to offer the highest possible Layer 3 switching. Traditionally, Cisco has done this with a router but we?re nearly 10 times as fast as Cisco. We?re able to give network managers a low cost but high performance upgrade.?
The 3500 Layer 3 Switch will be available in November, claimed Frost, while the future technology roadmap for the line will be formally announced then.
It is only a week since Cisco launched its own next generation switch/routing architecture with the release of its Big Fast Router.
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