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Bringing enterprise-class networking to the SMB

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There used to be a great divide between networking products designed for enterprise customers and those for small-to-medium businesses, but now the lines between the two market segments have blurred. SMB customers are increasingly demanding enterprise-class end-to-end networking solutions that not only give them demonstrably better return on investment but actually make their jobs easier.

This is forcing networking vendors to rethink their strategy in terms of the SMB market. By using open source software embedded in industry standards-based networking devices, it is possible to create highly scalable, customisable enterprise-class networking solutions at affordable prices.
Gavin Zackey, 3 Com’s regional sales director for Africa and South Africa, says that convergence is driving networking and this is boosting the demand for more capable technologies to be made available to the SMB market.
“SMBs are currently concerned with reducing complexity,” he explains. “They are therefore looking for single, converged products that replace multiple devices. Voice and mobility are particular areas of focus in convergence, and security remains front-of-mind.”
Security has expanded from the core of the network to the edge, and is now a concern throughout the entire business environment, where proactive methodologies are required for effective defence.
“It is also important that the core network infrastructure has effective management built-in and that it is able to manage third-party devices from this central point,” adds Zackey. “This is why 3Com is completely committed to supplying standards-compliant networking products that are both able to manage and be managed by third-party devices.”
Devices are also embedded with open source software, so they are highly customisable according to business needs.
“We speak about Open Services Networking (OSN),” explains Zackey. “This provides a differentiator for customers since they are able to develop their own network environments according to their specific demands – no matter the size of the organisation. For example, 3Com’s new multi-service router (MSR) series with OSN is ideally suited to help SMBs enhance business continuity, security and operational efficiency.
"In a feature-rich IP router platform, applications run on Open Services Modules (OSM). This makes it easy to deploy a variety of applications that enhance communications, security and network performance. There is no need to deploy numerous single-task appliances that complicate network management, take up valuable facility space, and consume excessive power.”
By opening up products to third-party development, Zackey believes that networking vendors not only provide more effective solutions to customers, but also a framework for solving the problems facing organisations in developing economies.
“There are no exorbitant licensing costs associated with open source software,” he explains. “The ability to customise solutions effectively and with little to no cost involved is important in South Africa, where effective and affordable solutions are required to meet specific and often unusual challenges.”
Flexibility, however, must be based on an effective foundation and it is also important for effective networking solutions to offer end-to-end services around wireless networking, voice, data, security and network management.
“It is crucial to provide expandable solutions that are easy to set up, customisable and cover all the bases in terms of converged services,” says Zackey.
The benefits of enterprise-class networking infrastructure are finally within the reach of small-to-medium-sized businesses, but it is important to select solutions that provide flexibility, compliance – and the scalability that is vital to a growing business.