- Address the top-of-rack.
- Expand its core switch to markets beyond China.
- Leverage its server and blade switch success to increase penetration of its fixed and modular data center switches.
- Further unify management across its applications and infrastructure to stimulate adoption of its FlexFabric architecture for flattening, consolidating and converging data center networks and resources.
- Continue to increase the densities and feature sets of all of its data center switches.
HP says it's a serious contender now and will be even more so in data center switching when it addresses priority No. 1 in the first quarter of 2012 with a new line of top-of-rack switches.
"We are the market leader in the data center, period, in servers," says Bethany Mayer, acting head of HP Networking. "So we have a beachhead as strong as Cisco's, and I think even stronger, and combining our switching technologies together with that ... is really what we're trying to achieve here."
Top-of-rack switching is the hottest segment of data center networking right now. The 10G Ethernet market was $1.4 billion in the second quarter, and top-of-rack switching accounted for 55 percent of the 1.4 million ports shipped, according to Dell'Oro Group.
That trend will continue.
"We continue to believe that almost all revenue growth in the (10G) market will come from this segment going forward and anticipate that 2011 revenues will reach $1.3 billion; accounting for 7 percent of (overall Ethernet switching) market revenue," Dell'Oro states in its Q2 report. That means top-of-rack switching could account for 23 percent to 24 percent of the 10G market this year.
The top five vendors in top-of-rack switching are Cisco, IBM through its Blade Network Technologies acquisition, Juniper, Dell and Brocade. HP has been missing from this list for two straight quarters.
But HP hopes to soon change that. Company officials wouldn't divulge what its new top-of-rack switches would look like in terms of port density, throughput, switching capacity, performance and so forth -- but they will support HP's own IRF multi-chassis technology and the TRILL specification for multipath forwarding in an Ethernet network.
Some say those switches can't come soon enough. In the first quarter, Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Ittai Kidron noted HP's weakness in data center switching in a bulletin on the overall market:
"10GbE strength was due to Virtual Connect (blade switches), not data center traction with A12500 or top-of-rack switches," Kidron wrote. "In our view, HP's still dealing with 3Com/ProCurve integration issues and is at risk of falling behind if it doesn't improve its data center portfolio by 2H11."
HP says it can't figure out where Kidron is coming from. It says all of its data center switching offerings are growing from a revenue perspective and that traction will continue when the new top-of-rack switch line debuts early next year.
"We have some products coming out very near term that go beyond the A5800 in terms of port performance and density," Mayer says. "That will provide us with the density we're looking for at top-of-rack, and more."
"The richness of the feature set and the density will be very, very interesting," adds Saar Gillai, HP Networking CTO.
Despite HP's lag in top-of-rack, the company is No. 2 in 10G Ethernet revenue with 10.5 percent of that $1.4 billion market in Q2, according to Dell'Oro. Cisco leads with 72.4 percent.