HP ProCurve Sets Sights On Cisco Core With New Switch

Hewlett-Packard is set to take on Cisco Systems with plans Monday to roll out its first network core switch that comes with a lifetime warranty.

The ProCurve Switch 8212zl is the first core switch built entirely on technology developed in-house by HP, including its ProVision ASICs, which is why the vendor is now for the first time comfortable extending its lifetime warranty to the core, said Wensceslao Lada, vice president and general manager for the Americas at HP ProCurve, Palo Alto, Calif.

"This covers one of the demands that customers had on our portfolio," Lada said, noting that ProCurve's lifetime warranty now extends all the way from the network edge to the core.

For many customers, ProCurve's lifetime warranty is a strong driver to buy HP products instead of gear from market-leader Cisco Systems, said Chris Barnes, president of Resilient Intelligent Networks, a solution provider in Bartonville, Tex.

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"The lifetime warranty takes away a lot of the complexity. A lot of customers get budget once, and it's a nightmare to go back for maintenance," Barnes said.

The new switch also gives HP the strong enterprise core offering it has been lacking, Barnes said.

"They've finally got the enterprise features that a lot of customers need in the core. They've got redundant management, redundant fans, redundant switch fabric, which are pretty much critical when you get into the enterprise-class core," Barnes said.

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HP is positioning the switch to go head to head with Cisco's core switches, including its Catalyst 6500 full-featured switches and its older Catalyst 4500 boxes.

"There's a refresh cycle we're seeing pick up on both the 4500s and 6500s, and customers are open to that conversation [to consider replacing them with ProCurve]," said Dan Montesanto, switch product manager for global product marketing at HP ProCurve.

While the highest-end enterprise customers that require advanced features such as support for MPLS would still need to look at Cisco's lineup, the majority of customers will find the features they need in the 8212zl and at a lower price point, Montesanto said.

"We meet the needs for 80 percent to 90 percent of the customers we're talking to," he said. The new HP switch carries a list price that is 20 percent to 30 percent lower than the Catalyst 4500 and 60 percent to 70 percent lower than the Catalyst 6500, he said.

Partners stand to make 15 percent to 20 percent margins on the ProCurve hardware, Lada said.

In addition to support for redundancy, the new Layer 2-4 switch provides 628 Gbps of switch capacity with 288 Gigabit Ethernet ports and 48 10-Gigabit Ethernet ports. Its list price starts at $24,000.

HP also is rolling out its Wireless Edge Services Module zl, which provides an integrated WLAN controller for the 8212zl and HP's 5400zl Series Intelligent Edge switches. Base system pricing for the 8212zl, available now, is $23,999. Pricing for the wireless module is $5,499.

ProCurve's core networking push comes in the midst of a reinvigorated enterprise channel push. The company began a recruiting effort last fall that is still ongoing, raising its channel base in the Americas to 4,000 partners, up from 3,000, Lada said. The company is still pushing to reach 5,000 partners by the end of 2008, he said.

The company has also seen 54 percent growth year-over-year on revenue coming through partners, he said. Further tweaks to the channel program will come later this year, he said.

HP is also seeing growth in its enterprise business, which Lada credits in large part to the company's channel efforts.

ProCurve grew worldwide port shipments by 46 percent in the second quarter compared to a year ago, while industry growth rate for the same period was 21 percent, according to recent research by Dell'Oro Group.

In North America, ProCurve grew second-quarter shipments for Layer 2-7 switches by 57 percent year over year in a market that grew by 14 percent, Dell'Oro said.