SMC and Asante have both launched two cheap Ethernet switches, showing that there's still life outside the wireless and 10 Gigabit Ethernet markets.

SMC Networks launched its 24-port EZ Switch SMCGS24-Smart Ethernet switch, with 10/100/1000Mbit/s, or triple-speed Ethernet supported on all ports in the box. The device also includes four additional built-in copper and fibre Gigabit Ethernet uplink ports, which can be configured to run as either all-fiber, all-copper, or a mix of the two cabling types. Only four uplinks ports can be active at once.

The SMCGS24-Smart is an example of LAN switch features, once found in more expensive products, that are filtering down to commodity-type gear. One feature new to the SMC switch line is cable diagnostics, which allows the switch to detect faulty Category 5/6 cable or fibre attached to a switch port that may impede throughput or traffic quality. IGMP (Internet Group Management Protocol) snooping, a capability for setting up and managing IP multicast networks, is another feature included in the switch.

Asante is offering new 24- and 48-port switches - IC3624 and 3648 - each with dual small form-factor pluggable (SFP) uplinks ports, which can be fitted with fibre or copper port physical interface modules. The box supports basic QoS and management technologies, including 802.1p traffic prioritisation. Pricing for these switches won't be released until the first quarter of 2007, when the devices are available. Compared to other Asante Ethernet gear, customers could expect the switches to fall in the $10-to-$15-per-port range.

In spite of the rise in price for copper cabling, predictions of the commoditisation of the Ethernet market, and analyst suggestions that money on Gigabit Ethernet could be better-spent elsewhere, industry watchers say there is some energy left in the Ethernet Switch market. Research firm Dell'Oro forecasts that for the total Ethernet switch market will grow from around $14.6 billion in 2004 to $18.3 billion in 2010.