March 10, 1997 10:00 AM ET

Intel to broaden the scope of workgroup network line
By Stacy Lavilla

  Intel Corp. is readying a series of products designed to give users a single source for workgroup networking technology.

Intel's new strategy, which it will begin to hatch next week, includes products such as a new print server, switches and autosensing repeaters, said sources close to Intel's Network Products Division, in Hillsboro, Ore.

First out of the gate will be a $399 single-port Fast Ethernet print server, which Intel will release next week, said sources.

That release will be followed later this month by the MatchBox switch, a Layer 2 device with Layer 3 forwarding capabilities, sources said. The switch will be the first fruit to come from Intel's recent acquisition of Case Technology Inc.

Intel also will announce later this quarter virtual LAN support on its network interface cards through a partnership with Cisco Systems Inc. and will roll out in the second quarter a 10/100M-bps autosensing repeater, sources said.

Intel also plans to strengthen existing third-party relationships with partners such as Cisco and through acquisitions and investments in companies such as Case and Xircom Inc.

Intel's growing networking line

Fast Ethernet print server Next week
Layer 2 switch with Layer 3 forwarding capability This quarter
VLAN capabilities for network adapters Later this quarter
10/100 autosensing repeater Second quarter

While Intel's Network Products Division already offers networking hardware, it has yet to emerge as a major supplier of networking products. Company officials are hoping to change that with a full suite of workgroup-level products.

"They have a good strategy for branch offices and small- to-medium-size businesses, but they still need the WAN part for outside connections," said Diane Meyers, an analyst at In-Stat Inc., in Scottsdale, Ariz.

At the workgroup level, price reductions and new products such as the 10/100M-bps repeater should help Intel carve out a niche.

The 10/100M-bps autosensing repeater represents a twist on more expensive 10/100M-bps switches. Having a shared-media option that lets users migrate to 100M-bps technology, at traditionally lower hub prices, should make migrating to Fast Ethernet technology a "no-brainer," said one source.

But Intel has work to do to convince some users it's a viable alternative to heavyweights Cisco, Bay Networks Inc., Cabletron Systems Inc. and 3Com Corp.

"I don't think of Intel as a networking company today," said Eric Ferguson, network engineer at Maryland Casualty Insurance, in Baltimore. "Everything is Cisco, Bay and Cabletron. And users responsible for medium to large shops will stick with them until another vendor, including Intel, proves itself."

Additional reporting by Scott Berinato

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