Ethernet switch and router competition intensifies

Hewlett-Packard Co. and Bay Networks Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., have introduced
dueling Ethernet desktop switches that will compete on a dollar basis.

And for the backbone, Cabletron Systems Inc. of Rochester, N.H., has begun an
aggressive promotion for its SmartSwitch Router. Hardware, software and power supply all
sell for $12,995.

Hewlett-Packard’s 24- and 40-port 10/100-Mbps ProCurve switches set low price
points when they became available Aug. 1, said Mark Thompson, product marketing manager
for the Workgroup Networking Division. Street price is expected to be less than $70 per

Bay’s BayStack 450 switches will cost about $50 more per port but will deliver
Gigabit Ethernet rates. Bay bills the new switches as the first to bring 10/100/1,000-Mbps
rates to the desktop.

Thompson said Hewlett-Packard is going after network market share because, although
switches are not yet a commodity, they are moving in that direction.

“I think we’re going to see the networking world start to look more like the
PC world,” he said. “We won’t be looking at the 50 percent gross margins
that a lot of the networking world is used to.” Instead, he said, margins will come
closer to the 20 percent earned by PC makers.

The HP ProCurve Switch 4000M has 40 autosensing 10/100Base-T ports in a modular chassis
and five expansion slots for up to 40 more 10/100Base-T ports, 10- or 100-Mbps fiber
modules, or Gigabit Ethernet modules. The ProCurve Switch 2400M has 24 10/100Base-T ports.

Both models come with HP’s TopTools network management software for hubs and
switches. They offer IP multicasting, virtual LAN tagging and port trunking. The 4000M
lists for $3,959 and the 2400M for $2,379.

BayStack 450 switches come in 24- and 12-port configurations, each with a
media-dependent adapter slot. They also offer VLAN trunking, application prioritization
and IP multicasting. Bay throws in its Optivity network management software. The 24-port
switch lists for $3,595 and the 12-port switch for $2,395. Both are available now.

Bay officials said they are marketing the 10/100/1,000 switches as a way for network
managers to future-proof desktop and segment switching applications.

But Thompson said he does not expect Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop to take off, even
as an insurance policy, until early next year when gigabit copper standards are adopted.

“You aren’t going to find systems that need a switched-gigabit link,” he

Craig Johnson, president of the Pita Group, a Portland, Ore., consulting firm, said he
expects the backbone switch router market to be driven by order-of-magnitude better prices
and performance.

Through Sept. 30, Cabletron will bundle in its $12,995 SmartPackage the SmartSwitch
Router in an eight-slot chassis with power supply, control module, router management
software and 16 10/100Base-TX ports. A SmartSwitch is rated for more than 15 million
packets per second on IP and IPX networks.

Contact Hewlett-Packard at 800-533-1333, Bay Networks at 800-82-9638 and Cabletron
at 877-264-1772.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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