HP debuts Gigabit Ethernet switches

Hewlett-Packard Co. last week unveiled a high-end Gigabit Ethernet routing switch that helps round out the company's product line by addressing the backbone of the enterprise.

The HP ProCurve Routing Switch comes in two models: the four-slot 9304M and the eight-slot 9308M. Both are designed for local and campus backbone cores within medium- to large-size networks. Traditionally, HP has targeted the workgroup market rather than the network backbone.

"Bandwidth to the desktop and the backbones has become painful," said Mark Thompson, product marketing manager at HP. "Routers are splitting up links as people try to build out high-performance networks, [causing] all sorts of problems. The new switch extends the performance capability of network backbones as well as preserves the addressing scheme put in place with routers."

The switches are suited for agency networks running large numbers of 10/100 megabits/sec switching ports supporting the desktop. They also are designed for networks with existing routed core backbones based on conventional routers or for networks that will be upgraded to a high-performance gigabit backbone.

"Today there are a lot of 100 [megabits/sec] backbones installed in government that people want to connect into immediately...and migrate the network one stage at a time," Thompson said. "These will enable government agencies to look at a dramatic increase in bandwidth without having to go out and look for more money."

Key features common to the two switches include: Internet Protocol, IPX and AppleTalk routing; support for multicast solutions, which enable transmitting data, voice or video to multiple locations at the same time; policy-based virtual local-area networks, which enable organizations to reconfigure a network through software changes, rather than rewiring; and automatic switch failover capability.

The switches differ, however, in terms of performance and capacity. The eight-slot switch supports 100 million packets per second and up to 64 Gigabit Ethernet ports or up to 192 10/100 autosensing ports or mixed-port combinations. The four-slot switch offers 50 million packets per second and up to 32 Gigabit Ethernet ports or up to 96 10/100 autosensing ports or mixed-port combinations.

HP's announcement represents a different direction for the company, said Esmeralda Silva, research manager at International Data Corp. "This is a switch that would play well into data center backbone installations," she said. "HP in the past focused on the workgroup wiring closet as part of their market segment."

The new switch will round out HP's product line, said Greg Collins, a senior analyst at the Dell'Oro Group. "This new product will help it provide an end-to-end solution. It's a good complement to their lower-end products," he said.

The HP switches start shipping next month and will be available on the General Services Administration schedule. The eight-slot switch lists for $15,999, and the four-slot switch lists for $7,999.

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