Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) became the latest vendor to enter the wide area network (WAN) router fray when it unveiled its ProCurve 7000 series WAN router in February.

The new HP router series targets branch offices that connect back to a central site. Boxes include support for virtual private networks (VPNs) via a daughtercard add-on and a built-in firewall.

The 7102dl supports up to a maximum of four T-1 connections and two WAN slots. The 7203dl supports up to eight T-1s on three WAN slots.

Another feature that makes the routers ideal for branches is their simplified management setup, said Darren Hamilton, category business manager for networking products at HP Canada. “We understand there’s little technical expertise in the branch environment,” he said.

The 7000 series includes a compact flash card port that allows network managers to store branch router configurations on compact flash cards. Those configurations could then be uploaded to the branch router by simply inserting the flash card and booting up the router.

Cisco owns the lion’s share of the router market with more than 80 per cent of the worldwide branch office revenue share. Other vendors competing with Cisco include 3Com, Enterasys and Foundry.

Despite Cisco’s stranglehold on the router market, there should be space for a firm like HP, believes Alan Freedman, an analyst with IDC Canada. “There’s always room, especially when a company has other products they’re selling to the end user.”

According to Freedman, as long as enterprise customers feel they’re getting value, they prefer dealing with as few vendors as possible. So HP should be able to leverage its other businesses to boost its share of the network market, he said.