New HP ProCurve Switches Challenge Cisco

Hewlett-Packard's ProCurve networking unit rolls out one of its largest product launches ever, attracting enterprise attention.

Hewlett-Packards ProCurve networking unit on Feb. 13 will roll out one of its largest product launches ever, with four new Ethernet Layer 3 switches and a new 10 Gigabit Ethernet module for its core ProCurve 8100 switch.

The new switches, which build upon ProCurves Adaptive Edge Architecture, incorporate a range of hardware-embedded functions, Gigabit Ethernet-optimized performance and competitive pricing intended to solidify ProCurves No. 2 standing behind Cisco among Ethernet switch vendors.

Although detractors claim that ProCurve sells LAN switches primarily to small businesses, the unit has quietly gained stature among larger enterprises.

In a survey of 180 medium and large enterprises buying LAN switches, Infonetics Research, of Woburn, Mass., found that "larger organizations will be more likely to go with a ProCurve than a 3Com," said Matthias Machowinski, a directing analyst at Infonetics.

"They are a very strong number two alternative to Cisco," Machowinski said, adding that 75 percent of the respondents were Cisco shops.

Two of the new switches—the ProCurve 3500 stackable line and the ProCurve 5400 chassis family—are built on the same next-generation HP Application Specific Integrated Circuits.

The ProVision ASICs enable wire speed performance at Gigabit and 10G Ethernet speeds and at the same time enable POE (power over Ethernet) on every port—without exacting a high premium, according to HP officials.

Both switches provide Layer 3 routing, virus throttling, Access Control List enforcement on a per-user basis, and Quality of Service and rate limiting on a per-user or per-device basis. They also provide hardware support for IP V6.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read more about how HPs ProCurve line fills out its Adaptive Edge strategy.

A six-slot 5400 chassis supports up to 144 Gigabit Ethernet ports and a 12-slot chassis supports up to 288 Gigabit Ethernet ports. The ProCurve 3500 includes a 24-port and a 48-port model. Both provide optional 10G Ethernet uplinks.

Officials of HP, based in Palo Alto, Calif., asserted that the new 5400 and 3500 switches deliver seven to 10 times the performance of comparable Cisco Catalyst 4500 and 3750 switches.

According to Senior Network Engineer Joseph Reeser of New York-based Nielsen Media Research, which plans to evaluate the ProCurve 5400, Nielsen uses both HP ProCurve and Cisco switches.

"Initially we went with HP at the campus edge for the price. However, the performance of their products, along with the lifetime warranty (no Cisco Smartnet), and their superior support, has us looking at their other next-generation products," he said.

For customers targeting shorter-term deployments for three to five years out, HP also added the ProCurve 4200 edge switch. It is intended to serve as a cost-effective alternative to stackable switches. "You can put many ports in the product and dont have to worry about a stacking cable. The stacking is built into the backplane, so theres no performance degradation you might see with a stacking cable," said an HP official.

The Gigabit Ethernet switch includes a four- and an eight-slot chassis. Customers can buy different port bundles depending on their speed and density requirements.

HP also added the new ProCurve 6200 aggregation switch, which provides 24 ports of Gigabit Ethernet connectivity over a range of fiber and copper media options. Also new is a 10G Ethernet module for the ProCurve 8100 core switch that provides flexible media connectivity.

The new switches will be rolled out beginning in March, with other models arriving in April and during the summer.

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