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Gigabit Ethernet Ready to Move into the Small and Medium Business Mainstream?

Are your networking needs growing so fast that you need lots more bandwidth? If so, 3Com has two products, the Baseline Switch 2900 Plus Family and OfficeConnect managed Gigabit PoE Switch, that you may want to take look at.3Com, which historically has tried to meet the needs of small and medium businesses, announced a series of rack-mountable switches available in 16-, 24- and 48-port models and capable of supporting devices, such as IP phones, wireless access points and Web cameras. In addition to the base switches, the OfficeConnect line is designed to support Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and wireless network connections.

Like competitors, 3Com is trying to push Gigabit Ethernet functionality down to the desktop because it thinks that users need more than the 10M bps or even 100Mbps that many enterprise networks now deliver. More bandwidth is required because PCs and laptops have been gaining power; in fact, a growing number come equipped with at least one and often multiple G bytes of processing power.

Traditionally, Gigabit Ethernet has been out of the price range of many of these businesses, but the 16-port version of the 2900 costs only $355. Competition has been fierce in the switching market, so pricing for G bps links may drop even further.

While the product appears attractive, the companys long term future should concern current and potential customers. 3Com has been struggling to build a viable business in the highly competitive network equipment market. Recently, the company was purchased by Bain Capital, an expert in company turnarounds, for $2.2 billion. The new owner took the network equipment supplier private, a change that often foreshadows a dramatic and painful corporate restructuring, one that may include deemphasizing products, such as the new Baseline Switch 2900 Plus Family. While 3Coms future is a bit fuzzy at the moment, what is clear is that 1G bps of bandwidth is no longer considered too much for small and medium businesses and companies that need it will find more and more suppliers willing and able to deliver it at a low cost.

How much bandwidth is available to your users now? How quickly are their networking needs growing? Are you considering deploying 1G bps of bandwidth to the desktop? Why or why not?