HP Stacks Up the Switches

Hewlett-Packard is hoping that its new Layer 2 stackable switch will cement its market position as the number two LAN switching provider behind Cisco.

Hewlett-Packard is jumping on what it perceives to be a trend to move away from unmanaged switches, coming out with a new, Web-configurable Layer 2 stackable switch that it will introduce on Aug. 28.

The switch is one of five coming from the companys ProCurve Networking unit. The switches are intended to fill out the low end of HPs line of fixed-configuration switches. Theyre also meant to solidify HP as the No. 2 LAN switching provider behind Cisco Systems.

ProCurve will bring to the new switches its trademark lifetime warranty, which does not require an annual maintenance contract, as well as new noiseless operation to units intended to sit on a desktop.

At the same time, with the new ProCurve Switch 1800 Series, HP is attempting to address a trend it has seen among customers to move away from unmanaged LAN switches to those that can be configured and maintained simply via a Web interface, according to Darla Somerville, vice president and general manager of HPs ProCurve America unit, in Roseville, Calif. She said that HP has seen the trend both among small and midsize businesses and larger enterprises adopting managed switches for small, remote offices.

Despite a heavy industry focus on Layer 3 switching, demand remains steady for Layer 2 switches—especially among SMBs, according to Katie Trippet, an industry analyst with Synergy Research Group, in Reno, Nev.

Trippet forecast the annual market growth rate for fixed Gigabit Ethernet Layer 2 switches to be 7.55 percent between now and 2009, when the research company projects it will be a $1.95 billion market.

The 1800 Series switch includes a 24-port version with a Gigabit Ethernet uplink and an eight-port desktop switch without a fan for quiet operation in an office environment.

The eight-port version is just what the doctor ordered for ProCurve users at Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers, in Kirkland, Wash. "There always seems to come a need for additional staff to share an office with someone," said Jerry Luedtke, IS director for Lakeside-Milam. "With the 1800, I can tie it into [a wiring closet switch] and extend that into the office, so I dont have to pull cable [to accommodate new users]. It securely extends the data closet into the office space without the heavy expenditure of pulling a cable."

The eight-port switch also extends features such as trunking, VLANs (virtual LANs) and traffic prioritization to a low-end switch that is typically not available in the category, according to HP officials.

The small form factor also works well for Lakeside-Milam. "You can hide it very easily so that end users dont see it. But [because its a managed switch] I can see it on the network, manage it with [SNMP] and secure it. Its perfect," said Luedtke.

Another new stackable aimed at the SMB market and those looking to migrate to a managed switch is the new ProCurve Switch 2510. It also eliminates noise for desktop operation by using no fan, but it provides 24 ports of 10/100 Ethernet connectivity with two extra ports for Gigabit Ethernet uplinks.

The most advanced of the new stackables, the ProCurve Switch 2810 Series, is a high-performance Gigabit Ethernet switch offered in 24- and 48-port models. It brings more advanced traffic prioritization, traffic monitoring and more flexible user authentication to the stackable form factor. It is designed to bring greater throughput to bandwidth-intensive applications such as video streaming, data storage and graphical data applications.

The switches, expected to arrive between Sept. 1 and Sept. 15, range in price from $209 to $3,949.


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