Choosing the best campus switches for your network environment
A collection of articles that takes you from defining technology needs to purchasing options
Hewlett Packard Enterprise is the second largest Ethernet switch manufacturer in the world, and it's among Cisco's biggest competitors in the North American campus switch market. The company often offers lower overall prices and an open source mentality when it comes to networking software.
Since the acquisition of Aruba Networks in early 2015, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has offered two distinct lines of campus switches -- both fixed-port and modular. There's the traditional HPE line of campus switches and the Aruba line. Adding even more complexity is HPE's partnership with Arista: HPE resells Arista's switches through its channel.
Although it can be confusing to figure out the differences among the three lines being sold through a single vendor, two stand out. First, Aruba switches tend to be on the lower end of the scale -- the access and distribution layer -- while HPE switches extend from the access layer to the distribution, core and data center.
The second major difference is how the switches are managed. All HPE switches are managed by the Intelligent Management Center (IMC), while the lower-end Aruba switches are managed through Aruba AirWave Network Management. Smaller businesses running both a wired and wireless LAN using Aruba hardware will likely prefer AirWave, while larger enterprises will likely choose HPE with IMC.
HPE and Aruba switches for the access layer
The 5130 EI series is an example of low-end, managed gigabit HPE switches. They can operate as Layer 2 switches or with basic Layer 3 capabilities, including static routes and Routing Information Protocol. Power over Ethernet Plus (PoE+) is also an option for powering end devices up to 30 watts. These switches use HPE's IMC for end-to-end management of HPE network devices across the entire LAN or WAN.
The 3180 series is a more capable access-layer switch on the Aruba side. These switches boast a maximum of 48 Gigabit Ethernet ports -- or up to 16 10 GbE small form-factor pluggable plus (SFP+) interfaces. The campus switches can be deployed in a stack of five to provide up to 336 Gbps of backplane capability. The 3810 series offers advanced routing, first-hop redundancy protocol and enhanced security capabilities, such as distributed denial-of-service protection. These switches are managed using the Aruba AirWave system.
Campus switches for the core and distribution Layer
The Aruba 5400R zl2 series switches operate successfully in midsize distribution or collapsed-core architectures. These modular switches come with either a six- or 12-slot chassis. The multilayer switches can push frames and packets up to 960 Gbps. In terms of connectivity, there's standard copper gigabit or multigigabit with PoE+, SFP, SFP+ and 40 GbE interfaces. Advanced routing such as Border Gateway Protocol, policy-based routing and advanced quality of service can be accomplished with this level of switches.
The HPE FlexNetwork 7500 switch series is a popular distribution or core switch for large enterprises. These HPE switches can handle up to 2.4 Tbps when properly equipped. They run off of a three-, six- or 10-slot chassis and can handle 1/10/40 GbE. And like all other HPE switches, they can be managed using IMC.
Pricing and support for HPE and Aruba switches
HPE hardware, software and support can be purchased through partner resellers. Many HPE switches and all Aruba-branded campus switches are backed by a limited lifetime warranty. Many also include with the purchase price up to three years of technical support. Higher-end switches, such as the FlexNetwork 7500 series, have a one-year hardware warranty.
For warranty service-level agreements or additional support beyond what's provided as part of the equipment purchase price, HPE offers more advanced support services through the HPE Foundation Care Services program. This includes hardware replacement with varying service levels, access to software updates and bug fixes, and 24/7 phone and online troubleshooting assistance.
Check out our buyer's guide on data center-class switching to find the right switches for your network
What you need to know before buying campus LAN switches
Dell offers switches for small enterprises, as well as large campus networks