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Premium Network, Four Ways

Nortel never responded to our invitation, and Cisco declined to participate. Allied Telesyn's response did not qualify because the company did not adhere to our requested format and offered no 10 Gigabit capabilities.

Those vendors that stepped up with qualified responses--Alcatel, Enterasys, Extreme and Foundry--impressed us, proving that at least four major networking vendors can deliver robust, manageable, end-to-end switching and routing connectivity from the wiring closet to the core, over the LAN and over the WAN. We've put the complete RFI as well as detailed responses online. The level of detail was high--the vendors provided more information than we could fit in print--and we recommend that anyone considering a major infrastructure purchase take a look.

Keep It Basic

For our C2G scenario, we stuck with switching and routing because it would have been difficult for our target vendors to do soup-to-nuts proposals. For example, Alcatel has a very good VoIP system, and Enterasys is a player in the wireless market, but neither does both. So, we indicated in our RFI that we wanted C2G's network to be ready for both VoIP and wireless, thus keeping our options open and not giving any vendor an advantage based on specialized offerings. It's the best of both worlds in that we were able to consider Alcatel for VoIP no matter whose switching and routing we chose (though, if C2G did give the bid to Alcatel, it would have an edge).

As for PoE, the estimate is that 802.3af will be finalized around June. Companies that are ready now will see that Foundry and Enterasys came up with nice compromises by partnering with vendors that provide external equipment for adding power. These "midspan" devices introduce power into a desktop connection by tapping into the cable. Note, however, that this solution is not a panacea: The devices take up space, are additional points of failure and generally add complexity to the network. For now, when purchasing any PoE-related products, insist they be guaranteed to support the final standard.

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