3Com will today unveil a module for WAN optimisation, using technology from specialist developer Expand Networks, designed to run on a new family of routers it is announcing at the same time.
The wide area application module (WAAM) is the first product resulting from the open services networking (OSN) initiative, announced early last year where third-party apps can run on Linux-based modules slotted into its hardware, with 3Com providing an SDK and a testing program to guarantee full integration.
Matt Walmsley, EMEA solutions marketing manager for the Marlborough, Massachusetts-based networking vendor, said 3Com is going further by putting the module on its price list, and selling and supporting it as a 3Com product. "There are other cases where companies have signed up to the ON testing program for certification of their app on our hardware, but will sell it under their own steam, such as Q1 Labs for network behavioural analysis and Vericept for e-mail monitoring," he said.
He said the OSN program was initially unveiled on the 6000 series of routers for the enterprise HQ, but he said the new modular services router (MSR) family is the first to be developed with the initiative in mind from the outset. It consists of three members, the 20, 30, and 50, targeted respectively at the small office, the corporate branch, and headquarters.
All three devices come with slots for different modules. The smallest is the 20 with four slots, which is enough for a WAN interface, one or two OSN modules and, if so desired, a LAN switching module, which can support power over Ethernet functionality and enable wireless networking or VoIP functionality.
Walmsley said 3Com will extend the OSN program to other platforms in its portfolio later this year, as well as growing the portfolio of 3Com-branded apps available as modules. "Our routers already have VoIP gateways on them, but we might want to deliver richer functionality down the road, and wireless is another area we could do something, given that the switches all have LAN switching capabilities," he said.
Innovation often starts with smaller companies, then spreads to the big guys by contagion, and that would certainly seem to be the case here. 3Com, with a run rate of around $1,2bn, announced the OSN program back in January last year and is now delivering on it in terms of the first own-brand module. Juniper, running at about $2,8bn, unveiled plans to open its JunOS operating system, primarily for the carrier market, in December, then Cisco, which is approaching the $40bn mark, said it had plans for something similar a few days later.
Of course, 3Com's initiative is different, in that it is designed specifically to bolster the company in the enterprise market, where it also leverages its Chinese operations for competitively priced (cheaper) hardware.