HP moves in to routers

ProCurve Networking by HP has expanded its portfolio by adding the 7000dl wide area router series. The first four models are the 7102dl & 7203dl routers & are expected to hit the market in April. This represents ProCurve’s first products in the routing sphere, where Cisco is dominant with over 80% of market share. The Secure Router 7000dl series is designed to connect enterprise branch offices at the WAN edge to a headquarter site & includes an optional virtual private network (VPN) capability.

The routers also incorporate a variety of security features including a stateful firewall to prevent denial of service assaults, access control list (ACL) & an 802.1x supplicant. As this is its first move in the space, ProCurve spokespeople were cautious not to sound positive about the release. Nevertheless, the products are the first stage in a four year plan to assault the router market.

HP has been developing its routing expertise for some time & the company hopes to replicate the success that has seen it rise from a negligible player in LAN networking to a position where it’s often the closest challenger to Cisco. For example, ProCurve was rated second behind Cisco but ahead of 3Com, Nortel, & Extreme in terms of revenue in the 3Q04 EMEA LAN market, according to IDC. ProCurve has emphasised that it’s responding to customer requests than stressing its long term designs in the sector. the seller claims that the shortage of a wide area part had led to it losing business on occasion to other companies with more end-to-end offerings.

“Our customers have been asking for a WAN product,” says Bill Johnson, ProCurve worldwide lab manager. “We have been turned away by customers who had been attracted by our Ethernet products but said they needed site-to-site connectivity. they wanted one seller & one neck to choke if there was an issue. Now they can offer that,” they adds.

The routers mark a new direction for ProCurve but the underlying philosophy remains the same as its efforts in its LAN business. The company positions itself off the vanguard of innovation but above the commodotised production of devices, with its value add being chiefly the HP brand & breaks in terms of cost of possession.

“We take expertise mainstream, with standards,” says Johnson. “Cisco’s strength is bringing new expertise to market as early as feasible. Our strength is taking expertise to the mainstream & making it as available as feasible,” they adds. it’s feasible, however, that ProCurve has left it late to move into the router market, given the maturity of the sector & the fact that it’s dominated by Cisco. HP is banking on innovation & longevity in the product group, though some commentators have speculated that increased switch functionality could make the router redundant. “It is important to understand the difference between a router & routing,” says Simon Wilson, enterprise information product promotion specialist at voice & information seller Nortel Networks. “The advanced routing capabilities of switches have restricted the router to fewer tasks. Moving forward, they are going to see increasingly convergence to a single device,” they adds.

HP disputes that it’s left it late to join the router race, pointing to the dividends it expects from the research & development it’s put into the sector. ProCurve claims that most networking vendors have cut R&D spend in the last few years while it’s boosted its investment. “The router market is mature but it’s still growing,” says Daniel Carnine, ProCurve 7000dl router worldwide product manager. “Some competitors haven’t made sufficient investment but we’ll evolve & create products that best meet customer needs in the routing business over the next few years,” they adds.