HP ProCurve ONE Positions Company for Possible Cisco Competition

The addition of new partners and initiatives to the HP ProCurve Open Network Ecosystem (ONE) may solidify HP's competitive stance as Cisco expands into the blade server market later this year. In addition, HP has also released a number of new enterprise-class switches for the data center. To make these switches more efficient, HP used a blade form factor.

The HP ProCurve Open Network Ecosystem has integrated new vendors and data center solutions that may not only help Hewlett-Packard expand its adaptive-networks vision within the $50 billion U.S. server market, but may also help it retain market share in the face of competition from Cisco Systems.

HP's Jan. 26 announcement included multiple vendors-including Aastra, AirTight Networks, Avaya, Erkhau, F5, InMon, Microsoft, McAfee and Riverbed-that have already signed on to provide network applications and services that interoperate with the HP ProCurve ONE Services zl Module, an HP blade for the HP ProCurve Switch 5400zl and 8200zl series.

By having these vendors' programs integrated onto a single platform, HP users should be able to improve their network applications' efficiency while reducing costs via operational streamlining.

The second part of the announcement focused on HP ProCurve's introduction of two new enterprise networking products for the data center.

First is the HP ProCurve 6600 switch series, five top-of-rack server edge switches based on the fourth generation of HP ProCurve's ProVision ASIC network chip set and designed with a front-to-back reversible airflow system that adds a bit of energy-efficient "green" to the data center. The switches turn off unused ports, also reducing power consumption while giving a boost to cooling efficiency.

The prices for the switches themselves range from $4,699 to $12,499.

The other just-released product is the HP ProCurve Data Center Connection Manager, software that automatically provisions server and network resources for both virtualized and traditional environments.

"The network should be flexible and adapt to users and applications, as well as the organizational changes that every company is going through right now," said Kowshik Bhat, HP's ProCurve ONE alliance manager.

Key to this is the network's ability to adapt intelligently to its users.

"If a user is moving from one network subnet to another, ProCurve has a policy instituted at the port level; if you move from one conference room to another, the user's policy dynamically gets applied to wherever you're trying to connect," according to Bhat.

These developments could help HP boost its profile in what may soon be a more competitive environment thanks to Cisco, which analysts predict will enter the blade server market in the second quarter with an Intel-based server-code-named California-that incorporates virtualization management.

Already in testing with a few clients, the Cisco server will likely be a beneficiary of the company's $150 million investment in VMware in 2007, which would equip Cisco with the necessary tools for virtualization.

"HP's role in the data center is traditionally strong, and they want to keep that strength," Abner Germanow, an analyst with IDC, said in an interview. "At the same time, you have Cisco looking at the network and saying, -We should have a larger role.' So you have a bit of a grudge match because they both want to play a role in the data center."

In the end, such competition will potentially drive down cost for enterprise users-and make their networking lives easier.

"There's an effort to use the network in the data center to bring a level of intelligence to optimizing data center functions in a way never used before," Germanow added. "At the end of the day, customers want architecture that's modular and flexible in nature, inexpensive, reliable, and efficient."