Foundry pushes copper gigabit, load balancing into midsize businessesSAN JOSE -\u00a0Foundry Networks\u00a0next month is expected to introduce\u00a0copper Gigabit\u00a0and Layer 4 to Layer 7 switches aimed at users looking to bring high-speed links to desktops and server farms.The new EdgeIron 24G is a fixed-configured copper Gigabit switch that could let businesses take advantage of low-cost Gigabit PC and server network interface cards (NIC) for running high-bandwidth applications, such as IP video over Gigabit Ethernet. The modular FastIron3208RGC provides high-density copper Gigabit for larger data centers, with 10G Ethernet uplink options.Foundry's ServerIron 100 series is aimed at customers looking for a chassis-based server or firewall load-balancing switch for improving data center server availability or for making security appliances, such as\u00a0firewalls\u00a0and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) accelerators, more reliable and fast.All three switches are expected to be unveiled at NetWorld+Interop 2002 in Paris, which runs from Nov. 4-7.Foundry's FastIron 3208RGC is a four-slot modular switch with 40 100\/1000Base-T copper ports on two blades, and eight mini-gigabit interface converter (GBIC) ports on its management module. One slot is open for additional Gigabit or 10G Ethernet ports. The midsize modular box will compete with Cisco's Catalyst 4000 and its new Catalyst 6503 series boxes and Extreme Networks' Alpine.The ServerIron 100 series of Layer 4 to Layer 7 switches will come in three flavors: the 2402 version with 24 10\/100 ports and two fiber Gigabit ports; the 8GC02F, with eight Gigabit copper and two fiber Gigabit ports; and the 8G model, with eight fiber Gigabit ports. All three models can handle 7 million concurrent Layer 4 to Layer 7 sessions, and support Foundry Web switching features such as Web server, SSL and firewall load-balancing, and Syn-Guard and DoS Mitigation, for stopping network-based attacks.Foundry says its new copper Gigabit and load-balancing switches target businesses with 1,000 to 9,999 employees - an area where the company says it sees more network expansion than that in large or Fortune 100 companies, where the company's high-performance chassis have been targeted. The FastIron 3208RGC and ServerIron 100 fill holes in Foundry's product line between its low-end stackable copper Gigabit and load-balancing boxes, and its larger chassis-based BigIron and ServerIron products, observers say.The EdgeIron 24G is a stackable 24-port switch with 10\/100\/1000M bit\/sec copper connections. Four mini-GBIC slots also are included for fiber or copper uplinks. The Layer 2 box supports 802.1p\/Q traffic prioritization\/virtual LAN tagging and the 803.1W standard for Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol (RSTP), which lets a Layer 2 link failover to a redundant link in less than a second, compared with Spanning Tree Protocol, which can take up to 30 seconds to reroute around a bad link.The EdgeIron 24G will compete with stackable copper Gigabit boxes from Cisco, 3Com, Extreme Networks, Nortel, Hewlett-Packard and Dell.With its EdgeIron 24G, Foundry says it is countering switch vendors offering low-priced copper Gigabit products - such as Dell and Netgear, which offer Gigabit at less than $100 per port - with extra features such as RSTP and quality of service. The EdgeIron 24G costs about $200 per port.Foundry joins the Gigabit bonanza from vendors as prices continue to fall fast. According to IDC, the average price for a fixed-configured Gigabit Ethernet switch port has dropped from about $800 per port in 1998 to about $150 to $200 per port this year. During the same time, Gigabit NICs also have come down from an average of $500 to the $200 range today. Many companies, such as Dell, HP and Apple, include built-in 1000Base-T connections on their PC motherboards.The EdgeIron 24G and the ServerIron 100 series will be available next month for $6,500 and $35,000, respectively. The FastIron 3208RGC is available now starting at $27,500.