Switching rivals take aim at Cisco with new gear, strategies

Four of Cisco's switching rivals announced new and enhanced equipment, and 3Com announced a renewed strategy to again address the large enterprise market globally, in attempts to undo the company's dominance during the recession. Brocade, Force10, Extreme and 3Com all say the current economic doldrums give them an opportunity while customers are sizing up budgets and considering ways to reduce cost.

All are targeting the data center, where 10 Gigabit Ethernet deployments are broadening. Indeed, 10G Ethernet may be hitting its peak just as the very first 40/100G Ethernet products are expected to emerge late this year.

Brocade unveiled its first 10G Ethernet top-of-rack switch; Extreme rolled out switch fabric and interface modules to transform its BlackDiamond 8800 switch into the BlackDiamond 8900; and Force10 introduced a 90-port 10/100/1000BASE-T module for its ExaScale switches.

Most intriguing though is 3Com's re-entry into the game, after hunkering down in China for the past few years. The company abruptly exited the large enterprise switching market in 2000 by killing its CoreBuilder product line, which didn't sit well with many customers. Then a few years later, it retreated to China after a failed attempt to sell itself to Huawei and Bain Capital.

Now it's back, and it says it can "disrupt the status quo" with some compelling economics in data center and campus switching, and with some impressive wins with large enterprises in China.

But history has not been kind to 3Com in large enterprise switching. Curious decisions like killing its core switch and effectively unplugging its customers might be why. And recession or not, convincing those customers to now trust the company again will be a very tough sell.

We're betting that customers have a long memory... longer than the lifecycle of a 3Com switch in the core of their data centers.  

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