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Rivalry doesn’t rankle Cisco, 3Com

Jan 13, 20033 mins
Cisco SystemsNetwork SwitchesNetworking

Who’s afraid of Dell? “Not us,” say the leading network switch vendors.

Who’s afraid of Dell? “Not us,” say the leading network switch vendors.

But neither are they standing pat as Dell goes after the network market using the same sort of aggressive pricing and manufacturing strategies that earned it success in PCs and servers.

3Com and Linksys are readying boxes that add improved security and manageability on top of basic Layer 2 and Layer 3 packet switching.

Meanwhile, Cisco said last week it will not let Dell walk in and eat its lunch in the low-end switch market (see story, “Cisco takes aim at competitors” ).

This week, 3Com will release security enhancements to its SuperStack 3 Switch 3300 and 4400 Ethernet products, which compete with Dell’s PowerConnect LAN products. 3Com is adding 802.1x and Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service support, which lets administrators secure connections by requiring end users to log in to a physical LAN port. The company also has added VPN support to its SuperStack Firewall. The enhanced SuperStack 3 Switch 3300 and 4400 switches, which come with 24 or 48 10/100M bit/sec ports and dual Gigabit Ethernet uplinks, start at $1,300 and $1,000, respectively. The firewall costs $4,000.

Linksys, best known for its consumer network products, last week also said it can go toe to toe with Dell in the small to midsize market. It released a 24-port 10/100M bit/sec Ethernet switch with SNMP management and Gigabit Ethernet uplinks for $500.

Dell was on the minds of Cisco and 3Com executives at a Morgan Stanley conference in Arizona last week, where the stackable switch leaders downplayed Dell’s entrance to their market. Cisco CEO John Chambers said his company would not surrender the low end of the switch market – which it leads – to newcomers, such as Dell. He added that his company’s gear offers more features and comes with better service than its competitors at the low end of the market.

At the conference, 3Com CFO Mark Slaven said that while Dell’s LAN gear might be attractive on price – Dell’s switches cost 45% less per port than Cisco and 10% than 3Com in 2002, according to Synergy Research Group – it has a long way to go to be a real threat in network gear.

Users of 3Com and Cisco stackable products say they are satisfied with their respective vendors – for now. But because cost often beats out loyalty at the lower end of the switch market, these customers say Dell and other low-cost vendors are always on their short lists.

“I like to leave the door open in terms of interoperability. If the Dell equipment is flexible in that regards, I’d take a look at it,” says Lyndon Easley, senior network engineer for Kinko’s, which uses 3Com switches in its corporate offices in Dallas and Ventura, Calif., and has not yet worked with the Dell gear.