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2003 Survivor's Guide to Infrastructure

Strengthen your backbone, smarten up your network and balance your traffic--but don't expect prices to come tumbling down just yet.

You can always count on the cost of network equipment dropping over time. The slowdown in spending may give some vendors even more incentive to cut prices to make a deal. Still, some low-end equipment is becoming commoditized by companies such as Dell Computer, which has proven it knows how to make a good profit on commodity products. This year, for instance, Dell introduced a line of high-performance 10/100 and gigabit switches that are long on features but short on price. We tested one in our Real-World Labs® and found its performance uncompromising. The price per port is so inexpensive that Cisco and 3Com have stopped selling their switches on Dell's Web site.

Prices this low are compelling, of course, but keep in mind that price isn't everything. If you are going to scale your network beyond 100 or 200 devices, you'll run into problems using a commodity product. Dell's switches, for example, have low port density and lack management features.

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