3Com, Microsoft Ally to Converge Networks

3Com Corp. set up shop in Microsoft Corp.’s neighborhood. Through an agreement dubbed the 3Com-Microsoft Alliance, the new neighbors plan to work together to accelerate the deployment of converged networks. More immediately, the agreement promised to further integrate Microsoft’s operating systems with 3Com’s product line.

3Com Corp. set up shop in Microsoft Corp.’s neighborhood. Through an agreement dubbed the 3Com-Microsoft Alliance, the new neighbors plan to work together to accelerate the deployment of converged networks. More immediately, the agreement promised to further integrate Microsoft’s operating systems with 3Com’s product line.

3Com will open a development center near Microsoft’s Redmond campus where the companies will concentrate on cooperative product development and work toward bringing products to market. Testing and verification of compatibility and interoperability between 3Com hardware and Microsoft software will be done there as well.

Initial product integration has 3Com migrating its Total Control carrier-class architecture systems, which use Windows NT for IP telephony, digital wireless data, cable head-end systems and remote access, to the Windows NT Embedded 4.0 operating system for the time being.

When it is released, Windows 2000 will be embedded into 3Com’s CoreBuilder 9000 LAN switch. The switch will use Active Directory in Windows 2000 to enforce policy for configuration, quality of service, security, monitoring and operation. The companies are also planning to integrate Windows into other LAN and WAN products from 3Com, such as the SuperStack II product line.

"The fact that 3Com and Microsoft are integrating their products more will allow 3Com to provide a level of service much like Cisco’s IOS," says Eddie Hold, research analyst at Current Analysis (www.currentanalysis.com), a market research firm.

The development center will serve as the testing ground for the efforts to integrate Microsoft’s software with 3Com’s networking hardware to build more distributed intelligence into higher-performance, converged-voice and data networks.

"We’re committed to making Windows the best software platform to enable network convergence," said Paul Maritz, Microsoft’s group vice president for platforms and applications, in a statement. "We believe our mutual customers will benefit from our joint efforts."

Industry analysts speculate that this alliance will benefit the industry beyond the scope of Microsoft and 3Com customers. Working together, the two companies have the potential to accelerate the flow of customer benefits from network convergence. Impact on the areas of IP digital telephony, streaming multimedia, broadband Internet services and directory-enabled networks is expected to arise as a result.

A report by Current Analysis’ Hold predicts the alliance will create significant product launches including advanced NICs that offload IPsec and I/O overhead from the host CPU, and a policy server for 3Com’s policy networking solution.

The 3Com-Microsoft Alliance also furthers 3Com’s movement toward converged networks, which is taking place on multiple fronts. Last December, for instance, 3Com and Siemens Information and Communications Group (www.siemens.com) formed a new corporation, unnamed as of yet, through a joint venture to work on products for voice and data convergence.

"These moves by 3Com indicate the company has a strong commitment to deliver convergence and seems to be taking action while other companies are waiting to see what will happen," says Ken Landoline, area director of telecom research at Giga Information Group (www.gigaweb.com).