Research shows Hewlett-Packard Co. has made significant gains in the modular Gigabit Ethernet switch market, but one expert said that's just a small step toward overshadowing networking giant Cisco Systems Inc. during the forecasted Ethernet LAN switch upgrade surge.
According to new data from Redwood City, Calif.-based research firm Dell'Oro Group, in the fourth quarter of last year, companies purchased 3.4 million Gigabit Ethernet (1,000 megabits per second) ports versus approximately 3.1 million Fast Ethernet (100 Mbps) ports for modular Ethernet LAN switches.
Modular switches have a chassis that can be filled with a variety of port modules and are commonly used by large enterprises for Ethernet connections to individual users' desktops.
Seamus Crehan, director of Ethernet switch research at Dell'Oro Group, attributes the growing popularity to the attractive price points. Gigabit Ethernet ports cost about twice as much ($280) as Fast Ethernet ($140) on a per-port basis, which Crehan said makes the decision to upgrade to modular Gigabit a relatively easy one for many enterprises.
Crehan added, "Theoretically, you're getting 10 times the speed for only twice the cost with Gigabit Ethernet."
Crehan expects to see prices decrease even further in the future. He said the higher volumes of Gigabit Ethernet adoption will encourage system vendors and component vendors to invest in that technology -- moving away from Fast Ethernet -- and that will cause the Gigabit Ethernet price to drop even less than twice the price of Fast Ethernet.
Cisco continues to have a stranglehold on the modular Gigabit Ethernet switch market as the No. 1 player, but HP is now in the No. 2 spot. The Dell'Oro report said Cisco claims 72% of the overall Ethernet switch revenue market share and HP's ProCurve has about 3.5%.
"HP ProCurve products are definitely gaining traction," Crehan said. "But there's quite a big difference between the two vendors and it would take a long amount of time to surpass Cisco."
HP's No. 2 spot is due to several new products introduced in key areas that the company hadn't previously been concerned with, Crehan said. For example, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company brought the ProCurve networking unit -- which includes 5300, 2600 and 2800 series switches -- into the Layer 3 market.
Crehan said HP has also been gaining traction in this sector during the past two years via aggressive pricing on its modular Gigabit-over-copper. In addition, HP intelligently leveraged the Ethernet switches that attach to the PCs and servers it already has a strong presence with, Crehan added.
Jason Blosser, director of IT at Connecticut-based Manchester Community College, said the college, an HP OpenView software customer, deployed a new campus network based on the ProCurve Networking adaptive EDGE architecture, and uses HP servers, desktops and core switching equipment.
Blosser said he was pleasantly surprised by the Dell'Oro report, but said he had seen HP ramping up its networking offerings for years now.
The best qualities of HP networking equipment, according to Blosser, are the great technical support and the ability to work with HP engineers on projects. He said the products in general have good feature sets, but HP can be slower to market with security features at times.
Overall, though, Blosser said HP's gear is superior to that of other vendors, with its considerably higher customer support value and much lower price points.