Bay, HP deliver 10/100 Ethernet switches

Bay Networks Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. earlier this month unveiled new workgroup switches designed for the 10/100 Ethernet environment and targeted toward price-conscious users.

The Bay stackable switch and the HP stand-alone switch are aimed at the workgroup area, but they differ on features and price, said Ron Westfall, staff analyst at Current Analysis, Sterling, Va.

"With the HP switch, you're getting utility. If you're looking for a cheap price, then HP has that feature," Westfall said. "If you're looking for more scalability, functionality and resilience, Bay has an edge over the HP switch."

The HP ProCurve stand-alone switch comes in two models: the 4000M, which includes 40 auto-sensing 10/100Base-T ports and five expansion slots for 10/100Base-T, 10 megabits/sec or 100 megabits/sec fiber or gigabit modules; and the 2400M switch, which supports 24 auto-sensing 10/100Base-T ports with a 2.4G switch bus. It lists for about $99 per port.

"By hitting the sub-$100 price point, people who may have considered only a shared environment can now afford switched 100 [megabits/sec] to the desktop," said Todd Swikle, North American business development manager at HP. "The government is rolling out new robust applications and servers that need a new level of bandwidth and performance. These will fit their needs."

The HP 4000M and 2400M switches share the same software features, Swikle said. They support the new virtual local-area network specification, which allows network administrators to reconfigure networks through software rather than physically rearranging hardware.

The HP switches also support Internet Protocol multicasting, for transmitting information to multiple users in a single transmission, and port trunking, which reduces bottlenecks. HP bundles its TopTools for Hubs & Switches technology for end-to-end management.

Meanwhile, the BayStack 450 stackable switch comes in 12- and 24-port versions and can be stacked eight units high and managed as a single unit. It comes with a cascading feature that maintains connectivity in the event that a single switch unit fails. It also supports Gigabit Ethernet, Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) and fiber uplink options. It lists for about $149 per port.

"The fact that this product is stackable lets customers migrate at their own pace at a cost point that is more affordable than [many] chassis-based solutions," said Tom Jenkins, manager of civilian government operations at Bay Networks. "It allows government users to use the 450 switch in an enterprise environment where density will become an issue over time."

Government users are beginning to ask for Gigabit Ethernet and ATM on the same switch as bandwidth demands on their LANs grow, Jenkins said.

"We see the government in a leadership position in both Gigabit [Ethernet] and ATM technology," he said. "Some users have requirements for Gigabit as an extension of their current local-area network infrastructure," but also want the luxury of knowing they can migrate to ATM.

Jenkins also pointed out that the Bay switch comes with 2.5 gigabits/sec switching fabric bandwidth, a 2.5 gigabits/sec cascade bandwidth and has no single point of failure.

"What's nice about the Bay switch is that it is stackable, so users can build a high-density wiring closet, and the price point is attractive," said Esmeralda Silva, research manager for LANs at International Data Corp. "The HP is not stackable, but it [has] extremely aggressive pricing."

One of the reasons HP is so aggressive on price is that it wants to regain market share, Silva said. HP held about 3 percent of the worldwide fixed-port switch shipment market last year, compared to 16 percent for Bay. "One of the things that will happen in the market is pricing. That will be the primary motivation in the wiring closet market," Silva said.

Both the Bay and HP products will be added to the General Services Administration schedule.

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