3Com made its most ambitious step yet into the high end networking market, announcing what it claims is the fastest switch on the market.
The Corebuilder 9000 is aimed firmly at Cisco, 3Com's arch rival and the dominant force in the enterprise and Internet markets. Some analysts believe this is the "make or break" product for 3Com, as it sees its traditional market position squeezed by Intel, attacking it vigorously at the low end, and Cisco and Bay expanding from above. "This is a very important product for 3Com," said Melinda Le Baron of Gartner Group, who claims Cisco has nothing to match it.
A source within Cisco countered, saying that high end equipment "takes more than a day to sell" and was all about "long term customer relationships and trust". Cisco will have leapfrogged the 9000 before 3Com can build up such ties, he implied.
But 3Com claimed the technology of the 9000 will speak for itself, delivering up to four times the network capacity of its rivals. Designed for either cell-based ATM or packet-based Gigabit Ethernet backbones, the new switch incorporates three existing 3Com solutions to provide flexible configuration options and backwards compatibility. The three are Corebuilder, Accessbuilder and Superstack.
Forwarding rates claimed for the multilayer switch are 100 million packets per second. Like the Corebuilder 3500, announced this summer, the new product supports 3Com's Flexible Intelligent Routing Engine - a Layer 3 wire speed switch/routing technology.
Currently, the 9000 supports up to 112 ATM ports or 126 Gigabit Ethernet ports, with plans to migrate from OC-12 ATM to OC-48.
UK prices start at #25,153 for an ATM chassis, plus #6,135 for a dual-port ATM module. The ATM system will be available in April, with the Gigabit version following in June, priced from #21,472 for a chassis and #2,454 for each dual port module. Additional Layer 2 and 3 Ethernet, FDDI and Wan access and multiservice modules will be added later in 1998.
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