Cabletron revs up network revival

Cabletron Systems in the coming months will use its Spectrum network management platform and its traditional strength in enterprise network gear toward initiatives intended to raise the company's sagging profile.

Pivotal to the company's plans is a partnership with Novell to integrate directory services into Spectrum, a multivendor network management platform for enterprises and service providers.

A maker of LANs for large enterprises and once a rival to giants such as Cisco, troubled Cabletron has become the subject of takeover speculation as the larger manufacturers have forged aggressively into service provider equipment and lined up with traditional carrier suppliers. Cabletron has not had much impact in these markets. Cabletron executives have said that the company might be sold for the right price.

By embracing high-performance technology and forming a critical partnership on directories, Cabletron plans to carve out its own space by providing policy-based network infrastructures for large organisations and service providers.

Executives last week announced plans to work with Novell to provide a single directory for all users in a Spectrum-managed enterprise. Observers said directory services will be the key to providing policy-based networking, which will let administrators allocate certain access and security rights for particular users and applications.

One analyst said policy-based capabilities of Cabletron's SecureFast network software could form a powerful solution if combined with Novell Directory Services (NDS). SecureFast has been integrated into Cabletron's current hardware as Smart Networking Services.

"If there's a way they can take that experience and define policy capabilities in NDS before Nortel or Cisco, and get it announced by the second quarter, that's the right formula to help both sides succeed," said John Morency, an analyst at Renaissance Worldwide, in Massachusetts.

Cabletron also will leverage its SmartSwitch and SmartSwitch Router hardware for converged voice and data networks, adding voice-over-IP capabilities and tools for guaranteed quality of service (QOS). The company will use a number of emerging Layer 3 mechanisms for QOS in its SmartSwitch Router. To guarantee performance of sensitive applications, Cabletron will use the IEEE 802.1p and 802.1q standards with priority queues in its SmartSwitch platforms.

The company also plans to stretch beyond its product roots to provide network services, using Spectrum to provide enterprises with information about the performance of their networks.

Morency said services could help Cabletron emerge as a stronger vendor from its difficulties. But one industry observer said there are rough times ahead for Cabletron.

"Unless they're able to get the train back on track, it's questionable whether they can remain independent," said John Armstrong, an analyst at Dataquest.

Rejuvenation initiatives

Cabletron is planning solutions in several critical areas.

* Enterprise management Directory integration with Spectrum platform* High-performance LANs 10Gbps Ethernet, 1Gbps desktop links* Converged LANs Voice over IP for SmartSwitch and SmartSwitch Router* WAN infrastructure Dense Wave Division Multiplexing

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