HP targets Cisco with low-cost switch

Hewlett-Packard last week at NetWorld+Interop 2001 announced a new modular switch aimed at kicking Layer 2 Cisco Systems boxes out of enterprise wiring closets.

The ProCurve Switch 4108GL is an eight-slot chassis for large to midsize business customers that need to deploy a large number of Layer 2 ports in their wiring closets. HP also announced a new mini-gigabit interface card (mini-GBIC) module for its high-end ProCurve 9300 line of backbone switches and new HP Open View-based management software for controlling HP switches with a Windows NT-based server.

With 10/100M bit/sec ports costing as little as US$135 each, HP says the 4108GL could be an inexpensive replacement for Cisco's Catalyst 4006, which averages about $216 per Layer 2, Fast Ethernet switch port.

The 4108GL has an array of modules for performing switching tasks, as well as Gigabit Ethernet fiber and copper ports for servers or high-end workstations. Each blade in the chassis acts as a stand-alone switch, able to handle all packet-forwarding tasks. HP says this feature 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 claims. The company 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.

The new ProCurve 9300 module is an eight-port mini-GBIC blade that lets customers 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 HP'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.

The software runs on an NT server and can manage 5,000 nodes.

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

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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