3Com Takes on Cisco with Open Source Play


3Com Monday unveiled its strategy to combat the all-in-one networking approach espoused by rival Cisco Systems via a new Linux-based networking module it will use to integrate a variety of applications with its routers and switches.

With its new Open Services Networking (OSN) strategy, 3Com can offer the benefits of an integrated networking approach that ties services such as security, VoIP and WAN optimization in with its infrastructure while at the same time offering the flexibility of a multi-vendor solution, said Andrew Bronson, product line manager for OSN routers at 3Com, Marlborough, Mass.

OSN represents an alternative approach to Cisco's single-vendor integrated networking approach, through which it builds network infrastructure with optional integrated applications. That means customers could deploy features such as routing, switching, VoIP, security, wireless and WAN optimization on a single Cisco device or small group of Cisco devices without using any non-Cisco equipment or applications.

"The single-vendor, integrated approach is generally limited in innovation and slow to add new services: they typically have to acquire them," Bronson said. On the flip side, a multi-vendor approach can be complex and carry higher capital and operational costs, he added.

3Com believes it is providing the best of both worlds with OSN.

The company is offering a new Open Services Network Module, available first for integration with its high-end Router 6000 product line, that includes a processor, hard drive, memory and control software to run Linux-based applications from 3Com, third-party vendors and the open source community. Later this year, 3Com plans to launch a new OSN router line as well as OSN modules for its switches and additional router families, Bronson said.

The vendor Monday also launched the new 3Com Open Network (ON), a program for technology partners, consultants, systems integrators and members of the open source community offering third-party products for 3Com's networking platform.

"From my view, it's a long time coming," said Glenn Conley, president and CEO of St. Louis-based 3Com solution provider Metropark Communications, via e-mail. The new ON program should help make it easier for channel partners to "try to fit the pieces together to make the best solution for the customer," Conley said.

"If I wanted to sell the 3Com NBX phone system with cool [Microsoft] Outlook integration software that does screen pops and Outlook journal entries when calls come into a user's phone, unfortunately, we were on our own. With the new 3Com ON program, there will be a wide array of proven applications that will integrate or interface with the 3Com products much easier, since 3Com will now work hand-in-hand with the developer community," Conley said.

The program should also aid Metropark in its own efforts to develop 3Com-related applications with better access to 3Com resources, he added.

3Com plans initially to focus on rolling out OSN solutions through systems integrator and service provider partners, and then add a broader range of VAR partners as more OSN-enabled products become available, Bronson said.

Thus far, applications from four vendors have been tested and approved to run on the new OSN module. They include security software from Q1 Labs; data and voice traffic optimization applications from Converged Access; compliance solutions from Vericept, and virtual server capabilities from VMware that enable support for non-Linux applications.

The OSN Module is shipping now for a list price of $4,495.