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Adtran deals itself into converged device game

Adtran is taking on an established market with a new line of stand-alone switches and converged switch/routers, but one expert said the company could become an attractive low-end Cisco alternative.

Network access equipment maker Adtran Inc. is pushing its chips to the center of the table, so to speak, by plunging into the low-end enterprise networking space. The company is launching two pairs of new switching and routing devices, despite a full boat of established competitors, including Cisco Systems Inc.

The Huntsville, Ala.-based vendor is debuting its NetVanta 1000 series with the 1224 and 1224ST models. The former is a rack-mounted switch that support up to 24 100 Mbps connections. The 1224ST adds dual interfaces supporting high-speed uplinking or stacking via Gigabit Ethernet over copper or fiber.

It's also releasing a second, more robust pair of Layer 2 Ethernet switches. The NetVanta 1224R and 1224STR combine a 24-port switch with an IP access router, modular WAN interface, stateful-inspection firewall and optional VPN functionality. The STR model also adds a Gigabit Ethernet port.

All four devices are designed to support multi-vendor environments, 802.1Q virtual LANs and link aggregation. Security features include RADIUS authentication and Secure Shell (SSH) remote access.

Tim Saunders, Adtran's vice president of product management, said the standard 1224 model is best for branch offices that have 24 or fewer network devices, while the ST version would be suited for linking more than 24 devices over a single LAN.

"An example might be a hotel, where you might put a 1224ST on each of the floors of the hotel to provide high-speed data access on each floor," Saunders said. "Then you would use the Gigabit ports on the ST to daisy chain each of the floors together and have them appear as single, managed network."

Saunders said the 1224R would be ideal for a retail store or other small office. By having the access-router functionality built into the switch, he said it not only saves space in the back room, but is also much easier for admins to manage remotely, as opposed to wrangling with a separate router and switch.

For about 15 years, Adtran focused primarily on the Channel Service Unit/Data Service Unit market. However, networking technology has evolved to the point where a stand-alone CSU/DSU device is no longer needed to modify LAN digital data frames for travel over the WAN, and vice versa.

"Most routers come with a CSU/DSU in them now, so it takes the value of what was [Adtran's] core market and shrinks it," said Zeus Kerravala, a vice president with the Boston-based analysis firm Yankee Group. He said that's why Adtran is branching out into the switching/routing market.

Kerravala said that more companies are implementing converged switches in small office locations because of the simplicity they provide. However, he said because there are already nearly a dozen major switching vendors, the company may struggle with its switching-only offerings.

For more information

What separates a hub from a switch or a router? Find out here.

Learn how to connect a 16-port switch to an existing hub.

Still, Kerravala said Adtran's decision to offer switching/routing devices could prove to be a savvy one, because "outside of Cisco, no one else has gone down that route. They have the only real alternative low-end router now, so that'll create some opposition for Cisco."

The NetVanta 1224 is priced at $795, and the 1224ST goes for $895. The NetVanta 1224R lists for $1,195, while the 1224STR sells for $1,295.

Kerravala called Adtran's pricing "competitive," especially compared to Cisco's premium brands.

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