Extreme Networks offers port extender for the 'outer edge'

Conference rooms, doctor's offices seen as potential locales.

Extreme Networks Inc. Monday announced a new product, called a port extender, along with a new version of its EPICenter management software, which both serve the "outer edge" of the LAN, areas where it's difficult to provide network connectivity.

An outer edge could be a conference room, visitor area or other location where LAN connections are needed and are typically further away from a data center than a wiring closet, said Harpreet Chadha, Extreme's senior director of product management.

The port extender product, called the ReachNXT 100-8t, connects to a copper or fiber link to a data center to provide eight wired ports to users that want to connect printers, laptops or other devices to the LAN, Chadha said.

In addition, version 7.0 of EPICenter will allow control of the ReachNXT device from a central location.

The ReachNXT will sell for US$295, and the EPICenter software will start at $2,995. Both will ship by the end of this month.

Two of the ReachNXT port extenders have been in use for about six weeks at Michigan State University's Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies, said Chris Howard, senior network engineer for the IT department at the center in Kalamazoo, Mich. "We're pleased with the performance, and it has fit a need," he said.

The product is used in two office areas shared by doctors who conduct rounds in nearby hospitals, he said. Eventually, a total of seven offices could be fitted with the product. Howard compared the ReachNXT to a simple power extension cord, but said it's useful in areas where wireless access has been difficult because of radio frequency interference.

The ReachNXT can be connected to either copper Ethernet or fiber from the data center and provides eight ports for laptops or printers, he said. Howard said he could also attach a wireless access point if the Wi-Fi signals were strong enough. By using the port extenders, he said he has cut down on the Ethernet cable drops he needs to make. "I can make one drop to each office, instead of four to eight drops," he said.

The ReachNXT is attached to metal desks or filing cabinets with magnets to stay out of view, he said.

Chadha said that one benefit of the port extender is for use in semi-public areas, such as conference rooms, where a more expensive Ethernet switch could be stolen.

Howard said he hasn't heard of any comparable port extender products on the market, but decided to implement it because his network is largely based on Extreme switches and other gear. He moved to Extreme and away from Cisco Systems Inc. three years ago, he said, partly because he could not get the service and support from Cisco that he wanted. "Frankly, I was fed up with Cisco," he said in an interview.

Overall, Howard said Extreme has been innovative as well, including its XOS software for management of network operations.

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