HP Takes Aim At Cisco Catalyst 4500 With Refreshed Enterprise Switching Line

Hewlett-Packard Wednesday rolled out a refreshed enterprise switching line it says will be a Cisco Catalyst 4500 "killer."

The new HP 5400R zl2 switch series is the next-generation version of HP's flagship enterprise switch, the HP 5400 zl. According to Kash Shaikh, global marketing leader, HP Networking, the new switch series -- which includes the six-slot HP 5406R zl2 and 12-slot HP 5412R zl2 -- provides higher performance and throughput than its predecessor, making it ideal for enterprise and SMB customers needing to support a growing number of mobile devices or bandwidth-hungry applications.

"Because of advanced wireless standards, such as 802.11ac, which requires much higher performance at the access layer, as well video and high-definition content, there is a lot more need for high performance in the campus network," Shaikh said.

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The HP 5400R zl2 switch series supports the OpenFlow protocol and can be used with HP's Virtual Application Networks SDN Controller. Shaikh said this allows customers to tap into the benefits of HP's SDN architecture without having to rip and replace their existing infrastructures.

"For those customers who are ready for SDN, they can take advantage of it," Shaikh said.

The new switch series also comes with HP's Lifetime Warranty 2.0, offering customers free 24x7 technical support for three years. The Lifetime Warranty 2.0 program, introduced last August, eliminated the fee HP customers had to pay for around-the-clock support, which, in some cases, could be up to 10 percent of the product's list price.

Shaikh said HP is "absolutely" targeting Cisco's Catalyst 4500 enterprise switch series with the new HP 5400R zl2 switches. He said based on publicly available specs for the Catalyst 4507R or 4507E -- the Cisco switches most comparable to the new HP switches -- the HP 5400R zl2 switches have three times the throughput and 58 percent lower latency.

"We already have a significant presence with the 5400," Shaikh said. "We have about 10,000 customers with the 5400, but with the increased simplicity, performance and the lifetime warranty, this is essentially a Catalyst 4500 killer."

Shaikh said the HP switches also have a 43 percent lower total cost of ownership than the Cisco Catalyst 4500 series, due in part to the lower cost of HP's Lifetime Warranty 2.0 program vs. Cisco's SmartNet support services.

Chad Williams, vice president of research and engineering at Matrix Integration, a Jasper, Ind.-based HP and Cisco partner, said both the HP Lifetime Warranty 2.0 offering and the fact that the new HP 5400R series is compatible with HP's SDN controller will be big differentiators when bringing the new switches to market.

"Being SDN-capable, from a customer perspective, it sort of provides them some future-proofing," Williams told CRN. "They know that what they are putting in is going to support any and all of the SDN and OpenFlow applications moving forward."

Williams said Matrix Integration is seeing growth in both its HP and Cisco switching businesses. He did note, however, that he has seen a few Cisco customers jump ship to HP recently, given that HP has become "unbeatable" when it comes to price-performance.

"The biggest thing I have seen when you are looking at HP and especially this 5400 [switch] line, the pricing on that architecture is actually more in line with what typical stackable switch pricing would be but you get the flexibility and the environment of a chassis-based switch," Williams said.

Cisco did not immediately respond to CRN's request for comment.

Shaikh said the higher-end 5412R zl2 can support up to 288 PoE+ ports, and the lower-end 5406R zl2 can support up to 144 PoE+ ports. The new switches also can work with line cards from the previous-generation HP 5400R switches, he said.

HP said the HP 5406R zl2 and HP 5412R zl2 are available now for $2,419 and $4,599, respectively.