The InfoWorld Test Center's 10-Gig switch-off
High-end networking gear from Hewlett-Packard and Extreme Networks prove their enterprise worth in a grueling gauntlet challengeFollow @infoworld
Testing went largely as expected. As did HP’s, the Extreme machines took everything our Spirent TestCenters tossed at them with a smile. The fun stuff didn’t start until we began our optional testing. First, Extreme insisted on doing some fail-over testing, dropping links in the midst of traffic transmissions with nary a bit escaping. Then the company reps demonstrated a real nifty capability: a hitless upgrade process. After a new firmware image has been uploaded, entering a simple command using TFTP (Trivial FTP) flops you between redundant MSM switch processors without a glitch in video and voice streams. This capability allows one ASIC to be upgraded while the other one works — no downtime.
During Interop Labs sessions at NetWorld+Interop, we saw the Extreme manage a self-defending network scenario similar to the one we threw at the HP. Nevertheless, the company elected not to tackle this part of our optional testing. More disappointing, it didn’t want us testing its Sentriant appliance that way. A dedicated threat responder, the appliance worked well during the Interop show but couldn’t play with the ThreatEx due to incompatibilities with its implementation of TCP/IP.
Even so, Extreme really showed us something with the overall test. The BlackDiamond line continues to impress us as a state-of-the-art switching infrastructure that has few peers. BlackDiamonds can function in any high-performance switching environment, from the carrier-class situations to corporate datacenters, and you’ll find specific optimizing features for each.
HP ProCurve 5406zl and 3500yl Intelligent Edge
For years, HP’s ProCurve marketing department has been fairly quiet. If you think of ProCurve at all, it’s mostly for edge switches and branch-office connectivity. Well, HP is out to change that image — with a vengeance. The ProCurve equipment that showed up to compete in this 10-Gig showdown combined all the cutting-edge technology you’d expect with a clear focus on the enterprise and only the enterprise. You won’t see ProCurve advertising aimed at telco switching racks.
HP brought an interesting array of complementary products to our test. Core switching was handled by two 4U 5406zl Intelligent Edge chassis. The 5406zl is the second-largest chassis in the ProCurve line, but the pair sufficed for our tests. Each chassis was equipped with four four-port 10GbE modules and a single 24-port 10/100/1000 premium line interface card, as well as its own 5400-series management module.
HP deems the line interface card “premium,” apparently for its support of PoE. The company showed off this capability by also bringing along its ProCurve Wireless Access Point 520wl and its Mobility Management software platform. To support its PoE intentions, HP had to equip the 5406zl with a powerful enough power supply, choosing for this task an 875-watt number that was placed in both cores. HP rates the 5406zl with an overall backplane throughput capability of 628Gbps.
The 5406zl’s management card deserves special mention, as HP has gone to considerable trouble to make it smart as well as competitive. A separate 667MHz PowerPC CPU runs the card along with between 256MB and 1GB worth of dedicated RAM. The card can manage multiple configurations via a handy Compact Flash card interface and even filter them on to other switches in the chain. A standard RS-232 console port is included, but there’s also a USB port on the card that HP claims will assume console duties in future releases of the management software.