HP's ProCurve 2610-24-PWR is not cheap for a 100kbps switch, even with PoE, but it has plenty of features and is a quality machine.
We were impressed with its straightforward interface and its "multicasting" feature for greater network bandwidth efficiency.
The HP ProCurve 2610 series switches are versatile devices: there are both 24 and 48 port models available and PoE (Power over Ethernet) is an additional option.
It is not practical to test the maximum network capacity of switches: this switch has a capacity of 12.8Gbps and trying to measure data flow at this speed is of limited value. This is because when the switch is pressured with a network storm, it is the CPUs on the connected computers that limit data flow.
Spanning tree functionality was tested by setting up redundant network paths in a small test network. We compared network activity with Spanning tree off and on.
The switch is assessed subjectively on the usability of its management features and the specifications given by HP.
Design and features
This switch is designed to maximise network manageability rather than supporting super fast data transfers.
The casing of the 2610 is a medium grey with a pale grey faceplate. The device is rack-mountable and takes up one rack unit of space -- mounting brackets are supplied. As the detailed name suggests, this switch has 24 standard 10/100Base ports, and in addition there are two 1000Base Ethernet ports and two Mini-GBIC ports for uplinks to your server and the wider world. (There is also a management port).
The information provided by the status LEDs varies according to the mode you select. The Link LED on each port is always lit when a connection is present, but the second can LED display information including: Activity, Duplex-mode, Speed or PoE status as required.
Status LEDs may become difficult to read when many cables are plugged in, but there is little option given that some members of the 2610 series have ports running the full length of the faceplate. Additionally, there is a power LED and 6 more for fault diagnostics.
If used as a standard switch, you'll have the ProCurve 2610 up and running as fast as you can plug in the leads. Configuring the management options will take longer, but it is not an arduous process. Initial access to the management interface is via telnet, but you don't need to learn command line functions, which is a real plus!
Once the basic settings are in place you can manage the switch through a web-browser or continue working with telnet. HP claims that web access requires no special software, but you will at least need Java to be installed. When logging in via a browser, the user should be aware that the default username is blank -- a point which is not clear from the supplied manual.
The management interface allows your network administrator to monitor network activity and diagnose problems, as well as control port activity. Speed and duplexing can be set for each port. The switch was also supplied with trial software, called ProCurve Manager, which adds a time dimension to network control -- thus enforcing when networks are accessible to specific user groups.
Optional external power supplies are available to protect your network in case of failure by the main internal power supply.
PoE delivers power and data along the same cable as with older style analogue telephones. Smaller electronic devices such as phones, hubs and access points can be easily placed without needing to bring in an electrician to lay extra mains power cables. Not all switches are capable of supplying PoE to connected devices, but the ProCurve 2610-24-PWR is one such product.
If there is one feature that HP would like to brag about it is the "multicast" functionality of this switch. This feature is designed to improve network efficiency in situations where identical data is being sent to multiple destinations. The switch does not require the data to be received several times from the source; data is broadcast to all recipients as required. This is a great idea for busy networks where bandwidth could be chewed up rapidly with video broadcasts or other bandwidth intensive processes.
The ProCurve 2610 would be well suited to an office environment where there is a need to link devices with relatively low network performance needs in a manner that allows maximal control by your system administrator.
It will not support a collection of PCs with Gigabit network ports, but that denies the point of a PoE switch like this. As a nexus for phones or wireless access points it is ideal. Both types of devices may be powered from the switch thus reducing network rollout costs. Administrators can remotely limit access from specific nodes on the network (on a time basis if the optional management software is installed) and improve network efficiency and security.
The built-in management interface is refreshingly simple to use. It was such a relief to see that the telnet interface did not require us to delve through the manual looking for the correct commands to change something as basic as the IP address -- just so that we could access the web interface. The settings were menu-driven making life simple. The web interface was also straight forward, but the Java controls may need to be clicked first to activate them before you can actually use them.
A good range of management tools are available to those who understand them, and if you just want simplicity you can ignore the interface and just everything in and watch it work.
HP provide a lifetime (as long as a product is owned) warranty on this product with next-business-day advance replacement -- which is great! The price for this machine is $1894 including GST. There are cheaper machines around, but what price do you put on simplicity and reliability?
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