November 1, 2004 1:31 PM PST

HP takes aim at Cisco in switch market

Hewlett-Packard's ProCurve networking division is taking aim at Cisco Systems once again with a new, low-cost Gigabit Ethernet switch.

On Thursday, the company plans to announce the ProCurve Switch 3400cl, a fixed-port Ethernet switch that supports 1-Gigabit Ethernet interfaces and 10-Gigabit Ethernet uplinks, according to Louise Bishop, HP ProCurve's marketing manager for the Americas. As it has done in the past with other networking equipment, HP is selling these boxes for a fraction of what a similar switch costs from Cisco.

The 3400cl goes head-to-head with Cisco's 3750 Ethernet switch. HP claims that the 24-port and 48-port switches offer similar functionality to Cisco's Catalyst 3750G-16TD, a 16-port Gigabit Ethernet switch, for a fifth of the price.

Interfaces supporting 10-Gigabit Ethernet provide 10 times more capacity than regular Gigabit Ethernet interfaces. Until recently, the technology has typically been used to build supercomputers for researchers. It has also been used by very large companies to shuttle traffic within high-end data centers and storage area networks.

But as costs fall for Gigabit Ethernet and 10-Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, makers of low-cost equipment are putting the technology in cheap stackable switches so that companies can offer Gigabit Ethernet to desktops throughout their network. Other companies such as Foundry Networks and 3Com have also introduced low-cost Gigabit Ethernet switches with 10-Gigabit Ethernet uplinks on their midrange products as well.

"We are definitely seeing more customers deploying Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop because the technology has gotten so cheap," said Bishop. "The 10-Gigabit uplinks are needed to aggregate this traffic."

Over the past couple of years, HP has aggressively marketed its products as low-cost alternatives to Cisco's products. As a result, the company has grown its revenue faster in the past two years than any of its competitors, including 3Com, Cisco, Nortel Networks and Enterasys Networks, according to Synergy Research Group.

Analysts say that HP has a long way to go before it seriously threatens Cisco, which currently owns the Ethernet switch market with roughly 80 percent market share.

Cisco was unavailable for comment on this story.

Here are how the features and the pricing stack up, according to HP Procurve:

• ProCurve 3400cl-24G: Twenty-four 10/100/1000-megabit-per-second Ethernet ports. Two 10-Gigabit Ethernet uplink ports. Base unit costs $3,759. Base unit with two 10-Gigabit Ethernet copper uplinks costs $5,558. Base unit with one 10-gigabit Ethernet LR (Long Reach) fiber uplink costs $10,497.

• Cisco Catalyst 3750G-16TD: Sixteen 10/100/1000-mbps Ethernet ports. One 10-Gigabit Ethernet uplink port. Base unit costs $19,995. Base unit with one 10-Gigabit Ethernet copper uplink port costs $21,195. Base unit with one 10-Gigabit Ethernet LR (Long Reach) fiber uplink costs $23,900.

Note: HP ProCurve's copper 10-Gigabit Ethernet module is a fixed configuration that comes with only two interfaces. Its fiber 10-Gigabit Ethernet module can support one or two ports. Cisco's module offers only one 10-Gigabit Ethernet uplink, either copper or fiber.

 

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