3Com's Second Wave Switch
The venerable networking company is offering a new box called the "Unified Gigabit Wireless POE Switch 24" that has a wired Gigabit Ethernet port and can manage and power up to 24 access points and offers features such as VOIP support and virtual LANs (VLANs) for separate guest access. 3Com says the box will cost $2,750 and be available later this month.
The firm says the appliance is aimed at the small and medium business market. It appears at a time when the concept of a unified wired and wireless switch seems to be re-emerging across enterprises large and small. (See Unified Switches: Get Ready.)
This is hardly the first time that the idea has been aired by vendors in the WiFi market.
Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) has talked up the possibilities of convergence between wired and wireless traffic on a network since it unveiled its first -- massive -- WiFi switch product, the Wireless LAN Services Module (WLSM), back in May 2004. (See Cisco Switches On.) The switch was too large-scale for many users to consider using it for WiFi at that point, and so Cisco ended up buying Airespace in January 2005, in part to support smaller installations. (See Cisco Buys Airespace.)
The networking giant, however, has never stopped talking about unified networking as part of its WiFi strategy. These days the revamped Catalyst 3750G rack switches are part of the firm's push in that direction.
The idea of combining wired and wireless networking on a switch was also attractive to many of Cisco's wireline rivals -- notably Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR), which came out swinging in April 2003 with a line of unified products that it reckoned would do away with the startups in the switch field. (See So Extremely Sorry, Startups.) This was not to be, and the firm ended up launching a second line of products in June 2005. (See Extreme's Second Wind .) In the event, the idea of unifying networks turned out not to be compelling enough to convince users to buy. So vendors are tending to concentrate on pushing the applications that can be enabled by bringing wired and wireless together with this latest wave of products.
These can be as simple as running wired and wireless for an office via one box, or take in more ambitious applications, such as unified security and enterprise-wide VOIP.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung