In Innsbruck, Hewlett-Packard announced additions to its routing switch family and slashed the price of its Procure Network products, in the company's latest networking push.
The company's 9304/9308 routing switch range now includes the 24-port 10/100 fixed configuration switch with a slot to allow it to accept modular products like multiple gigabit uplinks or fibre connections. This is a workgroup switch with Layer 3 functions for $89 (#55) per port, which HP claims is 20% cheaper than similar products from Cisco, Bay and 3Com (see box).
HP has also launched a test-market product, the Procure 22/24, at $42 (#26) per port. This is an unmanaged 24 port 10/100 switch. "We're putting feelers out to the people buying unmanaged hubs - this has all the characteristics of a switch, but doesn't require the granularity in management," said Brian Clark, director of strategic planning at HP.
Two new Procure 10/100 hubs are also available, both managed. The 12 port version is priced at $58 (#36) per port and the 24 port model at $50 (#31) per port.
Ian Keene, network analyst at the Gartner Group, said: "Like Compaq, HP has struggled to find its feet in this market but, instead of trying to convince customers it is better than Cisco, HP has tried to undercut its rivals on price."
He noted: "These workgroup and small-to-medium business switches are rapidly becoming commodity products, so HP's strategy does make sense.
Compaq's strategy, on the other hand, is way off and quite problematic.
Selling NICs with every server seemed sensible, but Compaq didn't allow for the large installed base of 3Com and Intel. People are suspicious of going all the way with one vendor."
Figures from the Dell'Oro research firm, for the fourth quarter of 1998, show HP's market share growing from 0% to 9% last year.
"We will get there," said HP's Clark. "It's a case of market perception, and price cuts will certainly help us along."
How the switches stack up. HP 9304/9308 #55 per port Cisco 2900 #76 per port 3Com 3300 #92 per port Bay 450 #92 per port
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