Bay Networks last week launched its family of Baystack 450 switches in Hong Kong. The product provides a stackable switching solution which Bay claims is more fail-safe than modular solutions. Bay's director of product management, Paul Woodruff, said the series would provide network managers with enough scalability to handle future bandwidth needs. The 450 series can handle 10, 100 or 1,000 mbps traffic, and is aimed at the desktop-switching market which is not widely implemented because few corporations require the high bandwidth it provides. The series also is designed to be part of a hybrid wiring-closet solution able to handle legacy shared media and newer switched media. The product is differentiated from Bay's 350 series by more advanced software features and better scalability through higher port density. One advanced feature is protocol-based virtual local area networks (VLANs), which prevent switched-media bandwidth for mission-critical applications from being compromised by shared-media protocol requests. Load-balancing and application prioritisation increase the 450's performance. Load-balancing opens multiple connections between 450-series switches and routing switches. Bay's competitors downplayed the 450's availability, with 3Com pointing out that its competing SS II Switch 3300 had been available for about five months with stackability built-in rather than being an expensive extra. It dismissed Bay's move as a pre-announcement to 'prop up their valuation', and said Bay could not match 3Com's service and support policies. Last week, another rival, Cabletron, launched its SmartSTACK workgroup switches, which it said provided 'unprecedented customer value'. Cabletron marketing manager for greater China Arthur Mak emphasised the higher bandwidth of Cabletron switches (4.2 gbps as opposed to 2.5 gbps) and support for up to 4,095 VLANs per Cabletron switch, as opposed to 64 VLANs for a single Bay product. He said he was confident the extra features of Cabletron's switches would differentiate them from similarly priced products.