3Com has released two new low-end switches for small offices in large corporations that need to manage gear remotely.

Office Connect Managed Switch 9 and 9 FX are eight-port desktop workgroup switches that offer full SNMP central support.

They also provide Power over Ethernet (PoE) through four of the ports to support VoIP, Wi-Fi etc by providing power for IP phones and wireless access points.

If customers need more PoE ports, they can connect the ports on the switch to 3Com IntelliJack switches, four-port switches that fit into standard Ethernet wall cut-outs to provide individual desks with more jacks, the company said.

The switches also support traffic shaping and rate limiting that can give voice traffic priority over other traffic. It can automatically identify voice traffic generated by 3Com's NBX VoIP system via tools that come standard. It can be integrated with other vendor's VoIP gear via manual configuration.

The switches offer an alternative to unmanaged but inexpensive switches from the likes of Linksys and D-Link or from buying larger and more expensive switches from 3Com. A 12-port 3Com SuperStack switch costs $700 to $800 and is designed more for a site that has a wiring closet, said John Sheedy, a 3Com LAN infrastructure product marketing manager.

The Office Connect 9 costs $500 with a copper Gigabit uplink port and $700 with a Gigabit fiber port. By comparison, a managed Cisco Catalyst 2940 eight-port switch costs $800 to $1,000, depending on whether it has a copper or fiber Ethernet uplink port, and lacks power over Ethernet.

Customers are unlikely to buy the new switches unless they already run 3Com shops, said Matthias Machownski, an analyst with Infonetics. "This fills in a hole in 3Com's portfolio," he surmised.