HP revs up Ethernet switches

SAN FRANCISCO (10/03/2003) - Hewlett-Packard Co.'s networking division next week will unwrap a slew of new switches, hoping to drive the adoption of GbE (Gigabit Ethernet) in the enterprise and leapfrog competitor 3Com Corp. in market share.

Currently the third-largest vendor of managed switched Ethernet ports, HP's ProCurve division will roll out the Switch 2800 series (new modules for its existing Switch 4100gl series and Switch 65300xl series), and ProCurve Manager Plus software for managing network components.

"By year-end we'll be in the No. 2 position worldwide for Ethernet ports shipped," said Amol Mitra, director of product marketing for the ProCurve networking business at HP. "The market grew three percent last year. We grew four times that."

Mitra explained that the new Switch 2800 series is intended to provide Gigabit Ethernet speeds to notebook PCs, desktop PCs, and servers that ship today with a GbE port. Consisting of a 24- and 48-port version, both members of the Switch 2800 series -- 2824 and 2848 -- feature 10/100/100 ports and mini GBIC (Gigabit Interface Converter)/UTP ports that can autosense the best speed for the machines connected. Additionally, the 2824 provides 35.7mpps of throughput, while the 2848 offers 71.4mpps.

HP also introduced a new Gigabit blade, which boasts 20 10/100/1000 ports with two mini GBIC/UTP dual ports that slide into its chassis-based Switch 4100gl series. Equipped with iSCSI support, the switch can be used in IP-based storage area networks. HP has also bundled three of the new blades to create the 4160 and two blades for the 4140. Leanna Leon, product manager of ProCurve networking business at HP, said the configurations for the 4100gl were based on customer input.

Additionally HP enhanced the existing Switch 5300xl with IP multicast routing and added a dual-port 10GbE module for its Switch 9300 product.

On the software front, HP rolled out ProCurve Manager and ProCurve Manager Plus. Providing basic network device management, ProCurve Manager comes free with all managed switches, while the Plus edition also provides traffic management, policy management, and VLAN management at an extra cost.

Mitra said HP trails 3Com by 1.3 percent in market share and will likely surpass them next year. From there, they'll begin chipping away at Cisco Systems Inc., he said.

"We consider ourselves an alternative to Cisco," Mitra said. "In addition to cost, I think we stack up better performancewise."

However, Mitra is quick to point out that Cisco is likely not too worried about a competitor in a market where it enjoys a 58 percent market share.

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