For Pc Network Titans, It's A Gang War

There's a cybernetic civil war starting, touched off by the recently announced merger of computer-network outfits Wellfleet and SynOptics. Alarmed, the two other U.S. networking leaders, Cisco and Cabletron, are stepping up their three-year-old collaboration to thwart the new threat.

First sally: Cisco and Cabletron are offering free technological support to Wellfleet-SynOptics customers who defect. Not bad, since such service can run from $700 to $1,500 per job. Plus, Cisco and Cabletron will offer up to a 30% discount for those who trade in Wellfleet and SynOptics products. They hope to raid Wellfleet and SynOptics customers while the merger is being put into effect over the next three months. This early, there are no takers for the Cisco-Cabletron enticements, although they report interest. The upshot, says Cabletron Chairman Craig Benson, will be "blood in the water."

How fearsome an obstacle will Cisco and Cabletron be? Cabletron is a close second to SynOptics, the world leader in hubs, which manage the links among a cluster of desktops. And Cisco is No.1 in routers, which connect the clusters, vs. No.2 Wellfleet.

SynOptics and Wellfleet say they aren't worried, alleging that Cabletron is behind the curve in new technology, which Cabletron denies. Besides, it's costly for customers to switch network providers. And the networking market is growing, so it might well have room for all to prosper. l

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