3Com to enter router market again

The one-time networking giant 3Com is making another assault on the router market.

The one-time networking giant 3Com is making another assault on the router market.

The company, which earlier this month predicted lower sales figures for the current quarter, is persisting in its attempts to go after Cisco Systems’ customers by launching two new families of routers.

The Router 6000 family is 3Com’s high-end enterprise router, the next step up from the 5000 family that was launched last year.

The company has also released some additions to the Router 3000 family, the low-end range aimed at branch offices of larger enterprises. To a certain extent, however, the company's thunder has been stolen by the launch of Cisco's own branch-office routers.

The company believes that customers are looking for alternatives to Cisco and will welcome competing companies. 3Com is not alone; earlier this year, Juniper Networks announced its intention of tackling the enterprise market.

Campbell Morrison, director of 3Com’s Wan business division, said that the time is ripe for a competitor for Cisco. “A lot of organisations out there are looking for alternatives: people like to have choice.”

The presence of Juniper in the market is good for 3Com as it means that more people will be aware of some of those alternatives, he said.

Morrison said that the 3Com products would score against Cisco on both price and performance.

“We come in about 25% cheaper than Cisco on comparable products,” he said, adding that, “we also tend to offer extra features. For example, we offer ISDN backup on the 3000 family, something that Cisco doesn’t offer on its comparable products.”

He admitted that it there was an issue with the Cisco product line being so entrenched but claimed that 3Com had ensured total compatibility between its routers and Cisco’s, citing an interoperability test by the Tolly Group.

The test was based on standard routing protocols such as RIP and OSPF, so the same interoperability would apply to all companies offering such routers.

Morrison said that one other factor in the take-up of 3Com’s routers would be the use of a single operating system for all the products, rather than, as in Cisco’s case, each router having its own, slightly different, operating system.

Cisco would have a head start in the market with its base of experienced users, but claimed that a Cisco engineer would be able to master 3Com’s operating system in a short time, he said.

The 3Com Router 6000 family offers MPLS, a stateful packet inspection Quality of Service, and IPsec VPN services. At first release, the WAN options include serial, E1/ T1, E3/T3, ADSL and OC-3 ATM interfaces.

The 3Com Router 3000 DSL series of ADSL and G.SHDSL routers consists of six new router models and brings a series of fixed configuration DSL routers to 3Com’s router family.

The products are being launched at a tough time for router suppliers. Latest figures from IDC have revealed that the router market in Europe declined during the last quarter. The overall European router market declined by 7.6% to $952.9m in the second quarter of this year, compared to just over $1bn in the first quarter of the year.

Maxwell Cooter writes for Techworld.com

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