It's too early for switch blades, says HP

Although Nortel is building switches for IBM's BladeCenter, HP's network division has declined to put its switches into the HP Intel blade chassis

Hewlett-Packard will not put its own Procurve switches into its Intel blade architecture because, it says, customers are not yet ready. Speaking at a press and analyst event in Barcelona on Tuesday John McHugh, vice president and general manager for HP's network business said that although it will be possible to put switches into blade architectures, such changes represent a "real challenge" to customers. "It's the same challenge as storage area networking," he said. In time, said McHugh, blade architectures will gather the loose Intel servers in a corporation into one chassis, and the network switches could be put in there too. But, he added, the first blades to be put in would have to be from the company's existing network suppliers: "The person doing the data centre network will bring the network manager in, and he will not want a new network architecture in there." The implication is that the first step should be a Cisco add-in blade (Cisco still has 60 share of the ports - a standard way of measuring switch market share), and there is no immediate sign of that emerging from the network giant. HP is a relative newcomer to the enterprise network -- fighting with 3Com for second place -- so there would be little demand as yet for HP blades. Also, from the switch maker's point of view, multiple blade architectures would reduce the financial returns. "At the moment, I can jam more in a 1U slot," he said. "We need one architecture, from IBM, HP and the rest. Then you would see network companies coming in aggressively. As long as there are different architectures, it is not an attractive business." He did point out, however, that HP has in fact already put a switch onto a blade, around a year ago, but for the original HP blade design, which was based round HP's RISC Unix systems. "This is a product you can buy now," he said. HP's ProCurve switch division operates more or less autonomously from the rest of HP, and is focussing on adding intelligence to the edge of the network, to support mobility, security and convergence of voice and data. At a demonstration in Barcelona, the company showed existing products supporting all three features, which are requirements of an enterprise network.

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