Microsoft has drummed up another networking supplier to lend support to its Windows 2000 strategy.
Last week, the software giant signed up 3Com in a wide-ranging technology alliance intended to gather 3Com users into the Windows net. Microsoft is already part of a networking technology alliance with Cisco and Compaq.
Under last week's deal, 3Com is to embed Windows 2000 Server into its high-end Corebuilder 9000 LAN switch, allowing applications to be run on the switch. The switch will use the Active Directory Service in Windows 2000 Server to enforce operation policy.
Microsoft and 3Com have also collaborated on desktop management features that will be supported in Windows 2000 Professional and Windows 2000 Server.
Planned improvements include allowing client and server network interface cards to perform hardware acceleration for standard TCP/IP processing and Internet protocol security encryption. Microsoft claimed that off-loading functions onto the network interface card would improve PC/server performance.
3Com strategic alliance director Bob Cushing promised further product integration, including plans to embed Windows technology within other 3Com LAN and WAN products like the SuperStack II range. "By working this closely we can make sure that the operating system has the right hooks for the network," said Cushing.
Microsoft vice president Brad Chase said that users would start to see the benefits of the collaboration in the first quarter of this year. The alliance would speed deployment of convergent, voice and data networks, he said.
Microsoft denied there were any tensions between its technology deal with 3Com and its support for rival Cisco. Cisco, which agreed to make Active Directory the directory of choice for its Internetworking Operating System software, has also been forced to hedge its bets, with the announcement earlier this year that it will also support Novell's NDS directory.
IDC networking analyst Pim Bilderbeek said that Microsoft's tie up with 3Com is unlikely to worry Cisco, because 3Com is focusing on convergence on the LAN, rather than on the WAN. "It is not clear yet whether rivals should be concerned about this alliance," he said.
3Com cemented the deal with Microsoft last week with the opening of a product development centre near Microsoft's US headquarters in Seattle.
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