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HP aims high with top-of-rack 10G Ethernet switch

HP 5900 switch bolsters FlexNetwork architecture, an alternative to Cisco Borderless Networks scheme

By , Network World
October 05, 2011 08:01 AM ET

Network World - HP this week is rolling out an array of networking products for the enterprise campus, branch and data center, including a switch that fills a major gap in the company's offerings.

The new gear is aimed at addressing the growth of virtualization, multimedia applications and mobility in the workplace, and the transition to IPv6 and 10Gbps Ethernet. It includes a high-density 10G top-of-rack switch for the data center, a high growth segment of switching where HP has been lagging behind competitors.

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HP's product splash falls under the company's FlexNetwork architecture, unveiled in May. FlexNetwork attempts to unify enterprise data center, campus and branch networks under a common and consistent operating environment. It's viewed as an alternative to Cisco's Borderless Networks scheme, yet also includes data center networking, which Borderless Networks does not.

And data center networking is where HP could perhaps use the biggest boost, especially in top-of-rack switching, where the company failed to show up on Dell'Oro Group's market share radar screen for two straight quarters. Its new top-of-rack switch, the HP 5900, may change those misfortunes.

The 5900 comes in two configurations -- 48 10G ports and 24-ports. The 48-port 5900 has a switching capacity of 1.28Tbps and a forwarding rate of 952.32 million packet/sec. Latency is about 1 microsecond, HP says.

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Up to four units can be logically linked together using HP's Intelligent Resilient Framework (IRF) technology, which the company positions as a method for flattening the data center network. The 5900 supports the IEEE's Data Center Bridging (DCB) standard for lossless Ethernet operations, and the Fibre Channel over Ethernet standard is a future augmentation. The 5900 also supports four 40G Ethernet uplinks.

The 24-port 5920 has a switching capacity of 480Gbps and a packet forwarding rate of 357.12 million packet/sec. It, too, can be logically linked in groups of four through IRF, and also supports DCB.

Both switches also support IPv6 routing and dual-stack IPv4/IPv6 implementations for transitioning customers to the new routing protocol. The switches are also designed to support the IETF's TRILL specification for multipath and multihop Ethernet forwarding in the data center, and the IEEE's VEPA specification for offloading switching from hypervisors to physical switches in the infrastructure, HP says.

HP also enhanced its 12500 data center core switch with new software that improves resiliency and performance. IRF has been added to the switch, which allows four of them to be combined into a single logical switch, regardless of where they are physically located, HP says. The 12500 also supports IPv6 in this new software release.

For the campus, HP rolled out the HP 3800 stackable switch. There are a total of nine models in the 3800 line, including 24-port, 48-port, 24-port PoE+, 48-port PoE+ with either SFP+ or 10GBASE-T uplinks, and 24-port SFP switch with two SFP+ uplinks. The switches are based on HP's ProVision ASIC.

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