3Com is aiming at the core of the enterprise network again, with a terabit-backplane chassis switch built by its Chinese partner Huawei. It has also added 10Gig Ethernet across its range including distribution and edge switches.

"We give better performance at 25 percent less than the Cisco Catalyst 6500," said Charles Gallagher, director of product management at 3Com, adding that the 3Com 8800 is newly designed and therefore more future-proof than the competition: "We will double the performance and port-density in nine months," he said. The Cisco-killer comparison continues a 3Com theme.

"The 8800 is the last piece in the puzzle," said Gallagher, claiming the company now has one of the broadest ranges of edge to core network products, thanks to its partners. "It's our most significant new switch ever." He also claimed the product beats Nortel and Enterasys and "most" Foundry and Extreme products.

3Com teamed up with Huawei last year in a $160 million joint venture, to aid a move back into the enterprise, a sector it had abandoned in 1999. "Joint development has allowed us to get to this point in 18 months, instead of seven years," said Darragh Richardson, head of marketing for UK and Ireland.

The first joint 3Com-Huawei product was the 7700 switch (which we reviewed here). Coming so soon after the joint venture began, it was almost completely a Huawei effort, but the 8800 has more 3Com input, said Gallagher.

The 8800 is a true core chassis switch, for networks up to 10,000 users "and that's pretty much any network," said Gallagher. With a 1.44 Terabit backplane, it can have 24 10Gig ports, and 288 Gigabit ports - and both figures will double in nine months, he added.

Ten Gigabit ports have also been added to the 7700, as well as the 3870 stackable switch - a pre-Huawei 3Com product - so the company is up with the current state-of-the-art. 10Gigabit ports are currently available in the core and as uplinks for distribution and edge switches (see 10Gig Ethernet pitches for prime time).

The one point where it lags is on CX4 copper - a short-range connection option that will be available next month on the 3870 for wiring closet and data-centre links. As befits a "core" network provider, 3Com is not getting into unseemly tussles over price-per-10Gig-port. In the core, 10Gig port prices start at $10,000 including the optical interconnect.