HP ProCurve Finds Its Edge

The new ProCurve 6400cl Copper and 6410cl X2 switches can be used as gateways to connect edge switches to more intelligent core switches, providing an enterprise LAN option that is more cost-effective than using expensive ports on the core switch, said Darla Sommerville, Americas vice president and general manager for HP ProCurve Networking.

The 6400cl supports only copper lines and costs $5,429, while the 6410cl switch, which costs $8,099, supports both copper and fiber lines. Both switches will be available from the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company by June 30, 2005, Sommerville said.

The 6400 switch series is part of ProCurve's larger strategy to push intelligence away from the core and closer to the edge of the network, where devices such as PCs and other clients connect. This plan will come to fruition with the release of the Edge Fabric switch family, Sommerville said.

HP's strategy differs drastically from that of its main networking competitor, Cisco Systems, which makes the bulk of its revenue from intelligent core switches.

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"HP is looking for the intelligence to move to the edge and for the backend to be big, dumb pipes," said Jon Oltsik, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, Milford, Mass. "That flies in the face of what Cisco wants to do."

ProCurve is developing its Edge Fabric switches using technology acquired from Riverstone Networks in July. Edge Fabric products will provide network management and security protocols, which usually reside in a core switch, closer to the network edge, Sommerville said.

Edge Fabric switches will provide a path for customers to migrate away from purchasing expensive intelligent core switches, she said. At the same time, ProCurve Edge Fabric products will complement a traditional networking architecture, if a customer wants to take that route.

John Barker, president of systems integrator Versatile Communications, Marlboro, Mass., said having network intelligence closer to the edge will definitely be more cost-effective for his customers.

Barker added that some customers still do not recognize HP as a switch vendor, and some may see ProCurve's focus on edge intelligence merely as a way for HP to differentiate its business strategy from Cisco's. However, it is clear there is a real commitment by HP from an engineering perspective to develop technology to support this new architecture, he said.

"I think [ProCurve has] a very well-thought-out plan and an excellent engineering team working on how they can offer these competitive products," Barker said.