3Com raises the ATM switch ante

3Com raises the ATM switch ante

Taking direct aim at Cisco Systems and Fore Systems, 3Com will shortly announce its most powerful ATM backbone switch to date.

Targeting users building more scalable multiservice ATM nets, 3Com's Core-Builder 9000 ATM switch is a 16-slot, 70Gbps device that is already installed at about 30 sites.

The switch, which will ultimately support a 14-fold bandwidth boost over 3Com's current ATM backbone offering, is designed to go up against Cisco's Catalyst 5500 and 8500 Multiservice Switch Router, and LightStream 1010. The 9000 will also compete with FORE's ASX-4000 switches.

"This is a very important product for 3Com; it is the pinnacle of our product portfolio," Clinton Ramsay, vice president of marketing for 3Com's Enterprise Systems business, said.

But 3Com still faces an uphill battle in the enterprise network arena.

According to The Dell'Oro Group and a separate study by In-Stat, Fore has a substantial worldwide market lead in ATM LAN switch port revenue for the second quarter of 1998.

Cisco is the leader in number of ports shipped, In-Stat reports.

First in revenue

According to the study published by Dell'Oro, Fore ranked first in ATM LAN switch revenue for the second quarter of 1998, with a 23.9 per cent share. The In-Stat study also ranked Fore first, with a 30.1 per cent share in the same period.

In-Stat ranked Cisco first in worldwide ATM LAN switch port shipments for the second quarter of 1998, with 26.5 per cent market share.

3Com, meanwhile, was well behind in ATM LAN revenue and shipment in the second quarter, with 7.6 per cent and 6.3 per cent shares, respectively, according to Dell'Oro.

"We need to gain further market share and we will," 3Com's Ramsay pledges.

3Com is banking on the CoreBuilder 9000 for that gain. Of its 16 slots, 14 are for payload and two are for redundant switching fabrics.

Frame/cell switch

Initially, the nonblocking switching fabric will be 15Gbps, but 3Com plans to scale that to 25Gbps and 50Gbps next year, and then to 70Gbps in 2000. 3Com's current ATM backbone offering is the 5Gbps CoreBuilder 7000.

By contrast, Cisco's LightStream 1010 and Catalyst 5500 switches can handle 5Gbps.

The Catalyst 8500 MSR will scale to 20Gbps, but isn't shipping yet.

Fore's ASX-4000 is a 40Gbps switch that started shipping last week. The company also offers the 10Gbps ASX-1000 and is developing a 20Gbps frame/cell switch for enterprise LAN applications under the code name Hydra, which will ship next year.

3Com's CoreBuilder 9000 can support up to 88 155Mbps OC-3 ports and up to 22 622Mbps OC-12s on quad-port and single-port daughtercards, respectively.

The daughtercards, which support either multimode or single-mode fiber, fit into I/O modules for each slot that have a dual OC-12 connection to the CoreBuilder 9000's passive backplane.

Each I/O module holds two daughtercards. This allows users to mix and match different port interfaces on each slot, depending on what's required, 3Com says. The switch also supports up to four power supplies and redundant management controllers.

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