May 14, 2004, 10:51 AM — 3Com Corp. will release an enterprise wireless LAN switch later this year, it emerged, as the company expanded its range of business-oriented access points.
It's perhaps not a big surprise, since most other networking vendors have switches of their own, or deals to provide them, and there are WLAN switch startups a-plenty. Strangely though, despite being so late and with a plethora of possible partners, 3Com will, apparently, be making its own WLAN switch.
"We will be bringing out a (WLAN switch) product at some stage later this year and it will be our own product," said Joe Carlucci, technical manager at 3Com. The switch will drop into a product range currently dominated by access points and router/gateways aimed at small offices.
Despite the lack of a switch so far, 3Com has had no trouble selling large wireless networks, said Carlucci. One of the most recent being "a U.K. County Council office" which went completely wireless during an office move. This is the kind of large installation which a WLAN switch vendor such as Trapeze Networks Inc., Airespace Inc. or Aruba Wireless Networks Inc. would say needs one of their products. According to Carlucci it can be done -- including RF management issues -- with ordinary access points, a good site survey and 3Com's own network management software.
The new switch will be needed, said Carlucci, because it improves features such as detection of unauthorized ("rogue") access points.
The new 7250 access point, which replaces 3Com's AP8000 is an 802.11g-only access point. Although 3Com continues to sell tri-mode a/b/g access points, this is at a cheaper price (US$500). For the last year, a/b/g access points have been popular in large enterprises as an insurance policy: if a takes off it would be costly to buy new access points. Enterprise-class g-only access points may indicate that fewer big businesses feel the need for dual-mode access points in future.
The new access point includes "enterprise" features such as power over Ethernet and 802.1x security. As a new access point, it can run the 802.11i specifications and the interim WPA security spec said Carlucci. The 802.11e quality of service specification will be supported by a firmware upgrade.
3Com also announced the SuperStack 3 Switch 3870, which it claims is the first stackable Gigabit switch with a built-in 10 Gigabit Ethernet expansion slot. The switch has 48 Gigabit ports in a single 1U-high unit and can stack up to 384 Gigabit ports.