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3Com Unveils Networking Solutions for Businesses

3Com Corp. may have closed the book on its home networking device, Audrey, but it certainly hasn't given up on networking and its potential as a pervasive force in businesses. The Santa Clara, Calif. firm Wednesday rolled out networking products geared to help companies cut connectivity costs and boost Web performance.

Though nothing special or unusual as far as network performance-enhancing devices go, the SuperStack 3 Webcache and SuperStack 3 Server Load Balancer product families, as well as a new software version for the SuperStack 3 Firewall, can all be installed within a quick 20 minutes.

"The sub-20 minute set-up time is an industry first for this product category," said Patrick Guay, vice president and general manager of LAN Infrastructure Division, 3Com's Business Networking Company.

As with most caching products, the SuperStack 3 Webcache stores heavily-tapped Web pages on the local area network (LAN) and provides content without needing to pull data from the wide area network (WAN) Internet connection multiple times, yielding what 3Com claims is a 50 percent reduction in WAN Web bandwidth costs. And because content is served locally at LAN Ethernet speeds in lieu of the WAN link, Web pages are zipped to users. Moreover, 3Com said it has tabbed caching and search engine specialist Inktomi Corp. to embed its Traffic Server Engine into SuperStack 3 Webcache. The product is ideal for firms who rely heavily on the internet to conduct business.

A pricier, more technically involved product, 3Com's SuperStack 3 Server Load Balancer manages network traffic across servers, so businesses are ensured maximum uptime, as well as the all-too-important capacity to serve e-commerce, network scalability and improved network performance. The server load balancer distributes network traffic at wire speed using Layer 4-to-Layer 7 switching. The load balancer was designed for companies with server farms, or those who are looking to set up advanced server environments.

3Com Wednesday also offered an upgrade for its firewall product, which has been on the market since last December. SuperStack Firewall provides businesses with the security to protect against hacker attacks. It also allows IT managers to set up virtual private networks (VPNs) to leverage the Internet for remote site connections.

Zeus Kerravala, research director at The Yankee Group, said the products can save businesses considerable amounts of money.

"The complexity and cost that have been associated with these Web technologies in the past has been daunting to some IT managers," Kerravala said. "However, by masking the complexity and making them more affordable, 3Com can make these solutions available to businesses of all sizes."

3Com can use the good news and reviews after a tough June when it posted a net loss of $518 million on revenues of $468 million for the fourth quarter. The company recorded a $147 million loss in the same period a year ago.

3Com President and CEO Bruce Claflin said he did not expect a major, industry-wide improvement in market conditions soon for 2001, but predicted that the Palm Inc. spinoff will be back in the black by the last quarter of 2002.

The company's restructuring strategy, which included the March cancellation of the Audrey Net appliance, has eliminated 40 percent of its staff since February.

All of the following 3Com products are immediately available: the SuperStack 3 Webcache starts at $4,999 and the SuperStack 3 Server Load Balancer starts at $8,995. The SuperStack 3 Firewall is priced at $4,999; version 2.0 will be available as a free upgrade late summer 2001.