The 2800 series of Gigabit Ethernet switches look like a good bet for connecting servers to a network used for backups at Media General Inc., in Richmond, Virginia, said Richard Lee, the company's director of operations. Moving from 100M bps to 1G bps Ethernet slashed backup times in testing of a 2800 series switch, Lee said. Media General, a longtime user of HP systems and network gear, uses a mix of Cisco and HP equipment. The HP products are very reliable and often much less expensive, and a lifetime warranty and free support add to the savings, he said.
"You buy the box and that's it," Lee said.
Competitive pricing, a respected brand, product simplicity and expansion into new categories such as fixed-configuration Layer 3 routing switches are among the factors that have helped ProCurve make gains in the market, analysts said.
ProCurve's Ethernet switch revenue grew 18 percent between the first and second quarters of this year while its port shipments increased 12 percent, according to Mark Fabbi, vice president of enterprise communications at Gartner Inc. In the second quarter HP was fourth worldwide in enterprise Ethernet switch revenue behind Cisco, Nortel Networks Corp. and 3Com Corp., and third in port shipments, behind Cisco and 3Com, he said.
Market research company Dell'Oro Group Inc. reported the same revenue rankings for the second quarter and said ProCurve is just slightly behind 3Com. It grabbed 3.3 percent of Ethernet switch revenue that quarter, behind Nortel's 9 percent and Cisco's overpowering 68 percent market share, said Dell'Oro analyst Seamus Crehan.
Though the ProCurve division isn't breathing down Cisco's neck today, it may be in a few years, some said. First it needs to build up its sales channels and customer base, said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at The Yankee Group, in Boston.
"Once they do that, there's no reason they can't become a more formidable opponent," Kerravala said.
Making its network gear business more competitive with Cisco's doesn't threaten HP's partnership with the dominant vendor, in which HP's sales force sells Cisco gear along with servers and other IT products, he said. HP wouldn't drop Cisco unless it thought it could move a greater volume of network gear by doing so, an unlikely conclusion for now, Kerravala said.
For its part, HP believes the strategy is a way to offer customers a choice, Mitra said.
HP's renewed focus on ProCurve is a smart move because the network gear provides bigger margins than most of the company's products, according to Kerravala.
"You've got to sell a lot of PCs to match what ProCurve makes," he said. HP officials were not available for comment on product margins.
The Switch 2824 has a list price of $2,499; the Switch 2848 costs $4,899. Both are available now. The Switch GL 10/100/1000-T module for the 4100 chassis costs $2,199, the Switch 4140GL configuration costs $4,399 and the 4160GL is $6,499. All three will ship in December. The two-port 10-Gigabit Ethernet module for the ProCurve 9300 costs $35,699. The long-range optic is priced at $5,999 and the extended-range at $12,999. Products for the 9300 will be available next month. HP ProCurve Manager Plus can be ordered now and has a recommended list price of $1,999.