3Com brings gigabit to SMBs

New switches include a 10-port desktop device and a line of wiring-closet devices

3Com this week is expected to unveil switches for small and medium businesses designed to bring enterprise-class capabilities, such as Gigabit Ethernet, to that market.

The switches include a 10-port desktop Gigabit Power over Ethernet (PoE) device and a line of wiring closet Gigabit Ethernet switches in various configurations. The products are intended to enhance price/performance, security and ease of deployment for Gigabit Ethernet and PoE networking.

"3Com is pushing gigabit when a lot of the enterprise competitors have been pushing 10/100[Mbps]," says Steve Schuchart, principal analyst for enterprise network systems at Current Analysis. "I'm a little mystified as to why people are dealing with 10/100 at this point. You can hardly buy a PC without gigabit on it."

For desktop connectivity, the OfficeConnect Managed Gigabit PoE switch is a fanless device sporting 10 1Gbps PoE ports for lower-density workgroup, phone and access-point connectivity. PoE switches usually carry a minimum of 24 ports.

For the wiring closet, 3Com's Baseline Switch 2900 line of managed devices come in four configurations: 16-, 24- and 48-port 1Gbps Ethernet; and 24-port 1Gbps PoE. The rack-mountable switches are designed to interconnect desktop workgroups, such as those configured with the OfficeConnect line.

Both the OfficeConnect and 2900 PoE switches feature 3Com's AutoVoice capability for automatically detecting the MAC addresses of IP phones and connecting them to the appropriate VLAN.

A potential downside to the switches, however, is that 3Com is only offering a three-year hardware warranty on them, whereas such competitors as HP ProCurve and Extreme are offering lifetime warranties.

On the upside, 3Com is offering gigabit "awfully cheap," Schuchart says.

The OfficeConnect switch is priced at US$495. The 16-port 2900 is even lower -- US$355.

The 24- and 48-port non-PoE switches cost US$495 and US$995, respectively, while the 24-port PoE switch costs US$1,195.

All of the products are available.

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