HP says it does wiring-closet boxes for less

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) last week announced a new modular switch aimed at kicking Layer 2 Cisco boxes out of enterprise wiring closets. The new switch was introduced at NetWorld+Interop 2001 in Las Vegas.

The ProCurve Switch 4108GL is an eight-slot chassis aimed at large enterprises that want a large number of low-priced, Layer 2 ports in their wiring closets, or for midsize companies that want their network - from backbone to workgroups - in one box.

HP also announced a new mini-gigabit interface converter (mini-GBIC) module for its high-end ProCurve 9300 line of backbone switches, as well as new HP Open View management software for controlling HP switches with a Windows NT server.

With 10/100M bit/sec ports costing as little as US$135 each, HP says the box could be a cost-cutting replacement for Cisco's Catalyst 4006, which averages around $216 per Layer 2, Fast Ethernet switch port.

The box has an array of modules for performing switching tasks, with 10/100M bit/sec desktop connections and gigabit fiber and copper ports for servers or high-end workstations. Each blade in the chassis acts as a standalone switch, able to handle all packet forwarding on the module itself. HP says this gives the box faster throughput than switches that send packets through the backplane of the switch or to other routing modules in a switch chassis. HP calls this its "Fast Path" technology.

"If you could add power to one of these modules individually, they'd be a switch by themselves," says Stan Takata, product manager for HP's workgroup networks division. This allows the switch to keep traffic confined to each blade in the box and free up bandwidth on the chassis' backplane for larger data flows between blades, such as a workstation port accessing storage attached to a gigabit port on a separate module.

The new ProCurve 9300 module is an eight-port mini-GBIC blade that allows network managers to add a bunch of single-mode or multimode fiber connections all at once to a backbone switch. The HP ProCurve network management for OpenView-NT (OV-NT) is designed to fill the gap between the company's free net management tool for handling networks of up to 2,000 nodes and its high-end HP OpenView product for handling networks of "unlimited" size, according to HP. The new software runs on a Windows NT server - as opposed to an HP-UX Unix based platform, and can manage up to 5,000 nodes in a network.

Modules for the switch include a 24-port 10/100M bit/sec switch module as well as a six-port copper Gigabit Ethernet blade.

The base price for the ProCurve 4108GL chassis is $5,000. Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet modules range in price from $2,000 to $14,000. The 4108GL chassis and modules will be available June 1. The mini-GBIC module for the 9300 costs $9,700, while the OV-NT network management software costs $3,400.

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