HP fleshes out networking strategy

Hewlett-Packard Co. last week unveiled its LAN infrastructure strategy, focusing on intelligent edge switches, backed by high-speed, highly available interconnect boxes.

The heart of HP’s LAN plan will be Edge Fabric LAN switches, based on technology HP acquired from Riverstone Networks Inc.. The Edge Fabric switches, slated for release in Q2, 2005 will be LAN interconnect boxes, available in an eight-slot, or 16-slot chassis. The switches will feature dual -port 10Gigabit Ethernet and 16-port Gigabit Ethernet line cards. The boxes will support Layer 2-4 switching and basic routing protocols, but won’t have all the bells and whistles of higher-end 10Gigabit Ethernet boxes. This will allow HP to offer 10Gigabit Ethernet ports for less than competitors, said Darren Hamilton, category business manager for networking products at HP Canada.

Network intelligence that has traditionally resided in the network core needs to move out to the network edge, Hamilton explained.

“We need to be able to identify if it’s a trusted user,” he said. “We need to be able to identify what type of device they’re on. And we don’t want to send those requests back to the core, which is what’s happening now.”

HP has already rolled more intelligence into its wiring closet switches, which include the 5300 chassis-based family and the 3400 stackable family.

While Cisco owns the lion’s share of the enterprise market, there are opportunities for other networking vendors like HP, largely at the small and midsize business level, says Alan Freedman, an analyst with IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto.

“HP is trying to make a name for itself in the networking space and they’re commiting resources into both marketing and development,” he noted.

While HP is focusing its efforts on intelligence in the network edge, the vendor isn’t abandoning its 9300 series core switches, Hamilton noted. HP will continue to introduce enhancements for the 9300, he said.

Also this week, HP introduced the ProCurve 6400 Series, a 10Gigabit Ethernet stackable LAN aggregation switch. Hamilton said the 6400s are designed for aggregating wiring closets, or for data centre links. The 6400 is available in two models — the 6400cl and the 6410cl. Both boxes can support up to eight 10Gigabit Ethernet connections. The 6400cl lists at US$5,429 and supports copper connections, while the 6410cl lists at US$8,099 and supports fibre. Both switches should be available in the spring of 2005.

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