3Com, HP Eye Enterprise Networks

The companies roll out new switches and software in an effort to gain a stronger foothold in the enterprise networking space.

3Com Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.s ProCurve networking unit dueled earlier this week over the attention of enterprise network operators when both launched a range of new switches and software enhancements designed to make their offerings better corporate network citizens.

Both vendors—relative outsiders for many large enterprise networks—continued their assault on the market share of well-established enterprise players such as Cisco Systems Inc. and Nortel Networks Ltd. How effective they have been in gaining a stronger foothold is not clear.

"3Com has a lot of work to do to get their brand name better recognized in the enterprise space. For them it isnt a product issue anymore," said Zeus Kerravala, vice president of enterprise infrastructure at The Yankee Group in Boston. "HPs had a lot of success in small and midsized businesses, but they dont have a great networking brand," he added.

3Com, which is battling to re-enter a market space it backed away from in the late 1990s, focused its latest advances on the edge of the network, security and centralized configuration management.

Leveraging its joint venture with Huawei Technologies Co., 3Com introduced the new 3Com Switch 5500 family of stackable Layer 2/3/4 switches with 12 new models that provide a range of connectivity options for both 10/100 and Gigabit Ethernet links.

The Switch 5500 stackables, intended for wiring closet aggregation, use 3Coms patented XRN technology to allow up to eight of the stackables to be managed as a single unit. They can also be upgraded to support POE (power over Ethernet) for IP phones or wireless access points. The switches, which can accommodate small form pluggable modules, will later add support for IPv6 and wireless switching modules, according to Peter Brockmann, senior director of product marketing at 3Com, in Marlboro, Mass.

With its 3Com Switch 7700 modular switch line, 3Com added two new chassis designed for high-density edge connectivity. Both support a new 48-port Gigabit Module and POE in the chassis, and they provide four and seven slots that can accommodate existing Switch 7700 modules.

The switches in both families provide the first integration with 3Coms Quarantine Protection technology, acquired early this year when 3Com bought TippingPoint Technologies Inc., a market-leading IPS (intrusion prevention system) provider.

"Any access switch can have the same power as an IPS to take control by giving the intelligence to that device from the IPS in the network," said Andy Salo, director of product management in the TippingPoint unit in Austin, Texas. "If you have any malicious activity from a device, the IPS detects it and blocks it and alerts the infrastructure to take action on that end point," he added.

That action can include enforcing security policies by MAC address, sending the offending end point a message that its infected, or completely blocking a port. That integration is due in the fall.

The latest release of 3Coms Enterprise Management Suite, which provides configuration change control and management, adds support for SNMP v3 and its security parameters; enhanced services monitoring; multi-user, multi-domain capabilities; enhanced change control with full audit trails; support for Windows, Unix and Linux; and the ability to integrate with other application management or system management products.

HPs ProCurve group for its part also emphasized security and manageability of enterprise networks, but it differed in emphasizing the core of large enterprise networks and in offering free software upgrades for its switching lines.

HP introduced a new 10 Gigabit Ethernet routing switch for the core of enterprise networks that emphasizes high-density multilayer switching and routing. The new ProCurve Routing Switch 9400 sl series, based on Foundry Networks Inc. switches, supports 32 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports or a total of 320 Gigabit Ethernet ports operating at wire speed.

The new 9400 sl series, which can scale to provide 1.28 T bps of switching capacity, supports IPv6 in hardware to maintain line rates in translating between IPv4 and IPv6.

The eight-slot chassis switch can be used to trunk Gigabit Ethernet uplinks or aggregate wiring closets and server farms, according to Al Madden, product manager at ProCurve, in Roseville, Calif.

At 32 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports, it provides greater densities than Ciscos Catalyst 6509 or Extreme Networks Inc.s Black Diamond switch. It is unique in its one-year warranty and free lifetime software upgrades, Madden said.

HP also enhanced both its free, base-layer ProCurve Manager software and its more robust ProCurve Manager Plus.

The base software now allows users to register their devices automatically with the ProCurve site to receive software update notices, technical papers and other documentation. Release 2.0 of the Plus version enhances configuration management with the ability to execute mass changes to groups of devices; integrates with HP OpenView Network Node Manager; and interprets SNMP events to automate actions such as shutting down virus-infected ports flagged by IPS systems or by ProCurve virus-throttling software.

HP also enhanced the software for its ProCurve 5300xl Switch series and its ProCurve Wireless Access Point 420 to beef up security.

The new HP switches and software enhancements are due this summer. The new 3Com offerings will roll out between now and September.


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