Originally created 01/29/97

IBM, 3Com, Cascade join to speed up Internet access



NEW YORK - IBM and two other high-technology companies on Tuesday joined forces to help speed up access to the Internet, agreeing to a common set of standards for relaying information across computer networks.

International Business Machines Corp., 3Com Corp. and Cascade Communications Corp. will jointly work on a new type of network technology called "IP switching," which acts as a sort of traffic cop for directing information across the Internet and private computer networks run by businesses. They plan to sell the new devices later this year.

IP switches are much faster than another network device, routers, that are widely used by corporations for trafficking information among desktop computers. Slow routers are a key reason why it often takes so long for information to travel across computer networks.

Until now few manufacturers have agreed to the same standards for how IP switches should work.

But analysts said Tuesday's announcement may cause some confusion among corporate information technology managers that buy networking equipment. Cisco Systems Inc., the leading maker of routers, has announced its own plans for building IP switches based on other technical standards.

Analysts said the muddied outlook reflects the rapid growth of the young network device industry.

"The confusion has come about because companies are jostling for position," said Brendan Hannigan, a senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc. But he added that the confusion should clear up over the next year as rivals come to terms on a common blueprint.