3Com unveils XRN software to improve scalability in switching

3Com has announced its latest product, a software package XRN (Expandable Resiliant Networking). The chief business gain, the company said, is in its ‘pay as you grow’ structure.

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By  Guy Mathew Published  April 9, 2002

3Com has announced its latest product, a software package XRN (Expandable Resiliant Networking). The chief business gain, the company said, is in its ‘pay as you grow’ structure that allows hardware to be added as required rather than bought up front on the basis of predicted growth. Previous switches based on a chassis often meant companies had more capacity than they needed for their LANs.

XRN also gives Gigabit Ethernet switches more scalability than was the case before. The combination of two or more switches linked by the software means that they can act as one, so increasing capacity without sacrificing the redundancy inherent in having two switches.

The company claims a number of significant benefits to be derived from XRN including: higher availibility, no single point of failure, increased scalability and better control and security. The last is achieved by having a single management interface. The reliability is improved by the dual redundancy of the package.

“It is very complicated internally but to the end user it is simplified. It is one logical box with two internal switches,” said Stanilas de Boisset, network consultant for 3Com.

Although the XRN package will not be availible until Q3, the company also unveiled several switches that will be compatible with XRN. The 4060 is a high-end Gigabit switch with 24 ports and at the lower end, the SuperStack3 4900 family of switches gets further updates.

The 4007R is also an update of a present model that is aimed at enterprise which needs a high availibility solution for its network. It is a chassis based switch that will not have XRN compatability for some time. 3Com is coy about its roadmap for driving XRN into the top-level enterprise space but it has plans to eventually connect six switches together in a ‘single distributed fabric’, as it describes the XRN environment. That will allow up to 144 Gigabit Ethernet ports managed on one system.

The final part of the switching line up to be released this month is the 4005. It is also chassis-based and includes updated software called OSPF or Open Shortest Path First.

Buddie Ceronie, regional director for CIS, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, was bullish about 3Com’s prospects follwing what he admited had been a turbulent eighteen months. “We need to hit profitability and having saved $1.2 billion in costs over the past year, we are cautiously optimistic we will do that by the end of May,” he said.

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