3Com Corp. today unveiled a strategy for boosting the availability of data networks, to ensure the smooth performance of next-generation applications such as multimedia and voice over IP.
"I'm absolutely convinced that availability is the key to convergence" of voice and data networking, said Ron Sege, senior VP of the enterprise business unit of 3Com, at a press conference at the NetWorld+InterOp trade show in Atlanta. He said customers want data networks to be as reliable as phone networks before they will consider running voice or multimedia over IP infrastructures.
3Com's strategy consists of boosting the reliability of all of its products, including high-end data center switches, WAN access devices, network-management software, and network interface cards. "Availability isn't a box-level problem," Sege said. "It's a systems-level problem."
In addition to its existing products, 3Com announced new software and hardware that aims to improve the availability of its customers' networks. 3Com is one of several major data-networking vendors pushing aggressively into what might develop into a market for combined voice-data products. Customers say that numerous financial, staffing, and technical obstacles remain before convergence will occur.
Among 3Com's new software is Multi-Point Link Aggregation, which will be supported initially on 3Com's CoreBuilder switches in the first quarter of 1999. MPLA increases the capacity of Ethernet connections and provides load-sharing capabilities. 3Com is also leading an effort within the Internet Engineering Task Force to develop a standard for link-aggregation software for Ethernet.
The company is also adding to its DynamicAccess software suite the ability to monitor the response time of specific applications. This lets network managers focus on certain critical applications as they traverse the network.
The vendor is also extending support for Virtual Router Redundancy Protocol, already supported in its NetBuilder routers, to its Layer 3 switches. This protocol allows instant failover in the event of a router outage.
On the hardware front, 3Com said it will start selling in the first quarter of next year the CoreBuilder 9400, a 24-port Gigabit Ethernet addition to its existing CoreBuilder line of high-end LAN switches.