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HP on the edge

Jan 30, 20032 mins

* HP's new strategy stays close to the end users

HP’s network strategy focuses on putting as much intelligence as possible at the edge, closest to the end user.

This isn’t necessarily a new idea, but HP is attacking it as if it is. To aid its efforts, the company developed two ASICs that it is very proud of. One is basically a switch fabric, but the other resides in a blade in a chassis switch, and it handles the routing and the higher-level functions you would expect from a switch. These include security functions and quality-of-service controls.

HP says it can keep its costs down because the ASICs do so much of the work in such a small space. The 5300 series of chassis-based switches was introduced last year, and they are the first products to really embrace HP’s edge philosophy. A fully loaded switch has just nine ASICs in it, fully loaded, says Brice Clark, worldwide director of strategy and business planning for HP’s ProCurve Networking Business.

ASICs are usually somewhat confining – particularly when you’re using them for higher-level functions – because they aren’t programmable, meaning it’s difficult to add or improve functionality. Clark says HP’s ASICs embed a bit of network processor technology so that they are at least partially programmable, with a firmware upgrade.

HP was able to update its 2500 series of switches, adding some functions to bring them more in line with the new edge strategy. For example, HP added support for IEEE 802.1X and RADIUS, to enhance security. However, there is a limit – Clark notes that the number of priority queues, for instance, is limited to just two per port on the 2500 series, and nothing can change that but a full upgrade to another switch. 

The edge focus means network managers can think in terms of managing on a “user” basis, Clark says. Once a user is authenticated at the edge, for instance, the user can be put on the appropriate virtual LAN and can be given the appropriate access privileges.

The functionality is there today in the 5300, but it has to be set up manually. This year look for HP to unveil management products to automate the functions.