HP Moves Intelligence, Control to Network Edge

Hewlett-Packard Co. last week launched a network planning and design architecture with which it seeks to rewrite the rules of campus network design.

Hewlett-Packard Co. last week launched a network planning and design architecture with which it seeks to rewrite the rules of campus network design.

While campus LANs today are designed with all or most of the network intelligence in the core of the network in large, expensive, modular switches—with inexpensive Layer 2 LAN switches populating the edges of the network—HPs new ProCurve Networking Adaptive Edge Architecture enables users to move more intelligence and control to the edges of the network.

Future enterprise networks will be shaped by the Internet and the resulting need for security, mobility and the convergence of voice and data, according to Brice Clark, worldwide director of strategy and business planning for HPs ProCurve unit, in Roseville, Calif.

"You need to put more control and functionality at the edge of the network so you can immediately provision the right kind of control for a broader range of applications," Clark said. "You need to manage mobility from a wireless perspective at the edge."

HP is moving in the right direction philosophically, said Vijay Bhagavath, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., in Cambridge, Mass. "The enterprise edge needs to be beefed up with security functionality and appropriate hooks to allow users to have pervasive access to business-critical information."

As a part of its initiative to redesign enterprise network architecture, HP has been working for the last three years to build more affordable intelligence into its own edge switches.

For example, HPs ProCurve 5300- series switches, which were delivered last summer and cost about $65 per 10/100M-bps port, implement a broad range of security features, as well as Layers 3 and 4 traffic prioritization features. "They let the customer deploy next-generation intelligence at the networks edge at a commodity price point," Clark said.

ProCurve Architecture

Delivers to the edge of a campus LAN:
  • Better security
  • Enhanced user mobility
  • Convergence support
HPs intent is to allow the network to adapt to the person connecting to the network at a given port and provide that user with the appropriate level of service and access to appropriate resources.

"As an R&D engineer, as I log in through the authentication process, it configures that port for my needs," Clark said. "It would configure me to the appropriate [virtual LAN], provide some indication of what types of applications I might be running and what prioritization those applications are entitled to. But as a human resources employee, a different set of controls will be implemented at the switch for me."

HPs ProCurve Adaptive Edge Architecture was designed to accommodate centralized network cores as well as distributed intelligence networks, so it can work in a mixed environment. But because HP does not sell its own modular switch/routers for core enterprise networks, it may have a hard time selling into large enterprises already invested in Cisco Systems Inc. core switches.

Some new features in the ProCurve 5300 are implemented in new, reprogrammable ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) chips. Others are implemented in hardware or firmware that supports software updates.

HP intends to build on the ASICs family to deliver other products or features in other form factors over the next 12 to 24 months, Clark said. HP is also working on a next generation of intelligent edge switches, he said.