3Com Expands Portfolio With New Router Family

The Router 5000 family of midrange products stems from a joint venture with Chinese networking vendor Huawei Technologies, a partnership that is expected to gain final regulatory approval from the Chinese government sometime this fall.

"We have played to the edge of the network predominantly, and this allows us to go beyond the edge," said John Bilton, director of U.S. channel sales at 3Com, Marlborough, Mass.


3Com's new router line stems from a joint venture with Huawei Technologies.

3Com plans to position the routers as full-featured, lower-cost alternatives to products from market leader Cisco Systems, San Jose, Calif.

"We're loading all of the memory and feature sets up front so people don't have to go back and add it in later," Bilton said.

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Scheduled to ship next month, the Router 5000 family includes four models: the 5009 for branch offices, priced at $1,395; the 5231 for regional offices, priced at $2,495; and the 5640 and 5680 for main offices, priced at $3,995 and $6,495, respectively.

All models feature a standardized software stack that includes Quality of Service (QoS) and security features such as VPN and firewall capabilities.

"Cisco does it all a la carte, so these will be a heck of a lot easier to order. You don't have to worry about configuration or hundreds of versions of software to go with it," said Sean Kelley, president of The Prominence Group, a convergence solution provider based in Sharon, Mass., that works with both Cisco and 3Com.

The new routers are priced about 30 percent lower than comparable offerings from Cisco, and will likely offer better margins, Kelley said.

The entrance of a new player into the market should force Cisco to become more competitive, solution providers said.

"So many router sales today are de facto Cisco because customers don't think they have options," said Steve Marks, president of Starnet Data Design, a network integrator based in West Lake Village, Calif., that also works with both vendors.

The new routers should ease deployments of 3Com's IP telephony solutions, Marks said.

"In the past, we've had to go to non-3Com products on the edge, and there have always been issues getting all of the QoS settings set up, especially when you have to bring in conferencing or paging across the WAN," Marks said. "Having it all from one vendor is a good story to tell, especially if it's price-competitive," he said.

The Router 5000 family will likely be most successful in accounts that are already using 3Com switches or IP telephony products, but it could be a tougher sell to new customers, Marks said.