THE United States-based 3Com Corporation has developed a new networking product which, it said, would solve many problems faced by firms with medium-to-large wide area networks (WANs), and disparate local area networks (LANs). This would be of great benefit in the light of the increasing importance of PCs to corporate operations. While growth has been phenomenal during the past five years in the worldwide networking market - about 30 per cent annually - companies with medium-to-large WANs and LANs have been facing the threat of an exponential increase in the cost of managingthese networks and interconnecting their expanding systems. Essentially the new product, called Boundary Routing, is a software development on existing routing equipment, and would be likely to appeal to companies with numerous remote sites, rather than small office PC linkage. Larger companies structure their PC system with, for example, a head office LAN, reconnected via ''bridge'' or ''routers'', to larger regional offices and via modem to more remote sites. However both the bridge and the router have problems. They address, (router) or broadcast, (bridge) their messages, but at each remote router location, the transmission must be configured to recognise all the possible protocols from different machines found in the office. This creates costly delays whether the organisation has 200 or 20 remote sites because while only 10 per cent of the staff may work on those remote sites, each needs to be linked via a PC and network to the corporate database. The MIS staff, according to Strategic Network Consulting, have to configure all these sites each time a new machine is added to the system and may spend 90 per cent of their time at the 200 sites while the other 90 per cent of users will be at headquarters. Each time a firm adds a PC, the cost of network management rises. 3Com's solution is to simplify the networks' protocol recognition. As a message leaves office A, it is identified as having a certain protocol and is addressed to its destination. As it enters office B, it is again identified and so it continues. 3Com's software solution means it need be identified only on entering a router. Take a hypothetical firm - Chipless Inc. The company has 13 regional offices, one headquarters and 86 outlets. Currently, all 100 sites would use a router and, in the conventional way, MIS staff would configure each site every time there was a change in the computer setup. Say the 86 Chipless offices all linked directly into one of the 14 larger sites. 3Com's solution means it would be necessary to configure the routers only at the 14 larger sites in order to recognise the messages as they come in and go out. This would reduce MIS expense and time. The Boundary Routers could be configured by local staff who would boot up a disk in their LAN server to expect the new configuration procedures from the larger offices, allowing updates to be done remotely.