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
HP has built a wide variety of expansion cards for the 5400 series chassis. Multiple 10GbE card configurations are supported by both fiber and copper 10/100/1000 cards with and without PoE. Power supplies can be had in either 875- or 1,550-watt versions, and the switch can support single- or dual-power supply configurations. All this to afford admins as much flexibility as possible in configuring downstream PoE devices. Should all the power generate too much heat, there’s also an optional hot-swappable fan module with four variable-speed fans.
On the edge, HP deployed two 1U 3500yl Intelligent Edge switches. These came equipped with 20 10/100/1000 PoE-capable ports, four “dual-personality” ports — where each port can be used as either a 10/100/1000 RJ-45 or an open mini-GBIC (Gigabit Interface Converter) slot — and four 10GbE uplinks. Management is built into the 3500yl, so an additional management card was unnecessary — and there was no room for it, anyway. This is one tightly packed unit.
All our 10GbE entries, even those from our previous shootout, position their products primarily via a customized ASIC architecture; HP is no exception. HP’s is called the ProVision ASIC, and what sets it apart from the competition here is that it’s been designed solely with enterprise switching duties in mind. There is no optimization here for telecom switch rack chores. Instead, ProVision marries performance to a very flexible and management-heavy software architecture — and frankly, it works.
HP’s management platform is called the ProCurve Manager, and it comes in two flavors: a freebie of the same name and a premium version that gets Plus tacked to the end of its title. The free version is actually surprisingly robust, including topology discovery and full event notification. For our tests, we used the Plus version, which also offers identity management and wireless capabilities.
The optional IdM (Identity Management) module is a truly nifty security bonus. It allows admins to apply individual or group access security across all compatible network infrastructures from the ProCurve Manager console. IdM is backed by a RADIUS server, and although it has limited use for end-users at this point, it certainly has potential in future releases.
In testing, the ProCurve solution performed excellently. HP deliberately sent just what it needed to complete our tests in order to keep its as-tested pricing as low as possible. Yet, after its engineers managed to get the ProCurve hardware talking to our Spirent TestCenter infrastructure, its performance numbers were excellent and nearly identical to those of the much higher-priced Extreme entry.
Basic throughput produced a line rate of just less than 99 percent due to some unavoidable traffic overhead because our testing scenario requires packet tagging. Our voice, video, and data tests clearly showed the ProCurve solution was capable of protecting high-priority traffic streams during oversubscription conditions while maintaining acceptable video playback and solid VoIP call-quality scores.