ProCurve Flicks The Data Center Switch

Another networking vendor is taking a stab at data center switching, as ProCurve Networking by HP today jumped into the data center with the addition of five new switches to its roster.

And while Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks and other competitors have made their intentions in the data center abundantly clear, ProCurve, too, is drawing a line in the sand, further blurring the divide between the network and the data center.

"We're getting extremely serious about the data center," said F. Matthew Zanner, ProCurve worldwide director of data center networking.

Part of ProCurve's Adaptive Networks vision, the introduction of five new data center switches, under the HP ProCurve 6600 Switch Series umbrella, offers networking solutions for next-generation data centers, Zanner said. And while the data center market is becoming crowded with networking vendors climbing up the stack, Zanner said it was a perfect time for ProCurve to get in on the action.

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Offering that end-to-end story is important not only from a competitive standpoint, but for solution providers looking to broaden their offerings.

"It's a competitive leverage point we never used," said Karl Soderlund, ProCurve vice president and general manager of sales and marketing for the Americas.

The 6600 series, ProCurve's first dedicated data center solutions, comprises five high-density, top-of-rack Gig and 10-Gig server edge switches optimized for the data center, offering simplified management and maintenance through consistent firmware across ProCurve's 5400, 8200 and now the 6600 series of switches.

Each switch in the 6600 series is based on the fourth generation of ProCurve's ProVision ASIC network chipset, driving the functionality. The series offers five high-density Gig and 10 Gig 1U switches that offer front-to-back reversible airflow, power-efficient hardware and software features and redundant power. The 6600 series includes two 24-port Gig switches, the 6600-24G and the 6600-24G-4XG; two 48-port Gig switches, the 6600-48G and 6600-48G-4XG; and one 10-Gig, 24-port switch, the 6600-24XG.

"We're pushing the Adaptive Networks vision to the server edge," Zanner said, adding the switches offer the same software image and management interface across the entire networking infrastructure, easing deployment.

Another facet of ProCurve's data center vision is the Data Center Connection Manager, management software that bridges server and network administration teams enabling policy-based provisioning of network and server resources in an automated and centralized fashion. The Connection Manager works in multivendor environments on both the server and network side and eases compliance and troubleshooting in a virtualized, complex environment.

For partners, the Data Center Connection Manager offers a building block to wrap in and create new services, Zanner said.

The 48-port ProCurve 6600-48G Switch Series will be available in the first half of 2009, while the 24XG and 24G middles will hit the market in March. The Data Center Connection Manager is expected in the second quarter.

NEXT: New application alliance tie apps into the network infrastructure

ProCurve's data center charge offers solution providers the ability to tell a full ProCurve networking story, wrapping in the data center to create bigger deals and build a competitive advantage.

"It's going to prove to be very important," said Chad Williams, public sector manager for Matrix Integration. "It shows HP's commitment to the overall networking segment."

Williams said before pulling the curtain off the 6600 series, ProCurve was lacking in the data center arena. As a 12-year ProCurve partner, Williams said Matrix has seen first-hand the vendor's steady growth and hitting the data center switching arena -- which is growing in importance -- will unlock new revenue streams. From a competitive standpoint, Williams said ProCurve's price for performance story and its lifetime warranty make it a strong contender to open up data center sales.

"From a comfort level, they're adding a great deal to that side of the equation," he said. "Bringing this end-to-end story will definitely add revenue to our bottom line. Other competitors were coming in and participating in the data center sale, taking revenue from our pockets and also getting an in into the network."

Along with diving into the data center, ProCurve on Monday also unveiled a new network ecosystem fueled by contributions from application partners. The ecosystem brings applications together with the infrastructure. The HP ProCurve Open Network Ecosystem (ONE) is a multivendor alliance program optimizing performance of enterprise-class applications with ProCurve's infrastructure.

At the offset, the alliance ties in IP telephony solutions from Avaya, network access control from Microsoft NAP, load balancing from F5, WAN optimization from Riverbed and intrusion prevention and detection from McAfee. The ONE platform lets users integrate best-in-class network applications and services from alliance partners. The applications are tested and certified to ensure interoperability with ProCurve's new ONE Services zl Module, an HP blade for the ProCurve Switch 5400zl and 8200zl series that consolidates partner applications onto one common platform, eliminating redundant operational cost and streamlining rack space.

Other participating alliance members include Aastra for video, voice and messaging convergence; AirTight Networks for wireless security and compliance; Ekahau for location-based services; InMon for traffic monitoring and analysis; .vantronix for integrated firewall security; and VBrick for Windows media video applications. Each provides applications for the ONE Services zl Module.

For VARs, that opens to door to drive more systems integration business, Soderlund said, while offering growth opportunities for ProCurve partners and partners of participating alliance members.

"The power of the overlap is the launching point for broader opportunities," Zanner added. "Partners can grow into applications."

Having the applications tied directly into the networking infrastructure can cut down physical space taken up in wiring closets, reducing operating expenses and increasing efficiency.

"It's easing how applications are delivered and giving choice and flexibility with no compromise," Zanner said. "It rips out the complexity of how the network interacts with the application layer."