Product review: ProCurve 2424M puts affordability first

As prices for 10/100Mbps Ethernet switches and hubs continue to plummet, Hewlett-Packard is showing several new, inexpensive, entry-level networking solutions for small to mid-size networking environments. None of these components come up short on useful features, and one, the ProCurve Switch 2424M, particularly stands out as an affordable foray into the Gigabit Ethernet domain, priced at $89 per port.

The ProCurve 2424M is a stackable, managed switch that boasts 24 10/100Base-T autosensing ports. Its open-expansion slot allows it to be fitted with a Gigabit Stacking Module, which will become available April 9, that supports as many as seven stacked switches. Single port SX and LX transceiver module configurations are also available.

I found the ProCurve 2424M effortless to set up and configure, primarily because the switch does most of the work for you. At power-up, the switch successfully completed a self-diagnosis, and I was ready to attach my networking cables. The ProCurve 2424M's auto-sensing ports quickly detected my devices, and the easy-to-read front panel interface confirmed node connectivity. In addition to connectivity and connection speed, the onboard display provides rudimentary troubleshooting diagnostics.

The ProCurve 2424M's inexpensive price does not impede a feature set characteristic of more expensive switches. It has per-port flow control (802.3x standard-compatible) and 802.1P/Q-compliant priority support that provides eight levels of packet prioritisation and virtual LAN (VLAN) capabilities compatible with products that support 802.1Q tagging. The ease of integration let me quickly move an existing VLAN to the HP switch and reconnect to a Cisco 7010 router.

In addition, the ProCurve 2424M supports link aggregation (port trunking), which lets you interconnect like-links from several switches to one higher-speed link for scalable bandwidth or redundancy.

Network management of these switches is enabled via an onboard Web server. Once assigned an IP address, the ProCurve 2424M can be administered from any standard Web browser. An RS-232 console port provides other management capabilities through a direct serial connection with terminal emulation or Telnet software. If you are not running a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, you must assign an IP address via this console port, for which HP provides the necessary cabling.

For working with more than just a handful of HP hardware, the ProCurve 2424M comes with HP TopTools for Hubs and Switches 4.1. This Windows NT 4.0 toolkit offers comprehensive performance analysis and monitoring of your hubs and switches. For enterprisewide management, TopTools integrates with many popular management platforms, including Computer Associates'Unicenter TNG, Tivoli Enterprise, and, of course, HP OpenView.

Although installing TopTools and its required components took several computer restarts, the net result was worth the effort. Its Web-based interface gave me detailed, real-time insight into my network devices and traffic, replete with customisable warnings and autonotifications. The Network Performance Advisor monitors traffic over time to analyse your topology and suggest improved optimisations. I was impressed to find such thorough troubleshooting assistance in a bundled software package.

The latest wave of HP hardware includes several other low-cost pieces to bolster your networking infrastructure. Also available are the unmanaged ProCurve Switch 2224 with a 100Base-FX fiber-optic transceiver expansion slot and the 12M/24M model hubs that sport a built-in bridge and management tools that are similarly easy to integrate.

With the ProCurve 2424M, HP has built a superior, low-latency, store-and-forward switching solution that offers both flexibility and expandability for the growing enterprise. Combining the product with time-saving extras, such as free management software and a lifetime warranty, truly make it stand out in its class. If you are looking to upgrade your small workgroups to desktop switching, I recommend the ProCurve 2424M.

James Borck (james.borck@industrialArt.com) is the IS director at Industrial Art & Science, in Plainville, Conn, USThe bottom line: very goodProCurve Switch 2424MThis inexpensive switch has built-in expandability to Gigabit Ethernet, providing high-speed stacking capabilities that will grow with your enterprise.

Pros: Easy to set up and configure; onboard Web server provides administration; includes HP's TopTools network management tool.

Cons: Could bog down under consistent high-traffic conditions in large stacked scenarios.

Hewlett-Packard, Palo Alto,Calif.; (800) 752-0900; www.hp.com.

Price: $US2139 for ProCurve 2424M; $639 for Gigabit Stacking Module.

Platform: Windows NT 4.0 Server or Workstation.

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