Launched in February, the ProCurve 2610 PWR range of 10/100Mbps switches is designed for IT organisations that are deploying VoIP telephones or other 802.3AF Power over Ethernet (PoE) devices.
The 2610 is HP's second-generation PoE switch and sits in the middle of its enterprise range. Switches from the previous range, called the ProCurve 2626, were somewhat larger, more expensive and were less suitable for networks with a small number of PoE devices. In contrast, the 2610 range caters for networks with a small, medium or large number of PoE devices. The 2610-24-PWR, reviewed here, delivers full PoE to each of its 24 ports, while the 2610-48-PWR provides 48 PoE ports. The 2610-24/12PWR version provides full PoE to half its 24 ports, although it will power all ports if configured with an optional external power supply. Given that most PoE devices don't draw the full 15.4 watts of power, each PoE port could deliver enough power for two PoE devices.
In terms of its features and manageability, the 2610 is a high-end option. But for many potential customers, the price per port could be the overriding consideration. Although HP is unlikely to be the cheapest option, the 2610 is crammed full of goodies that could sway some buyers.
The 2610 is the first HP mid-range switch to include sFlow network monitoring support. Compared to the 2626 range, the 2610 has improved 802.1x support, which can now handle 8 users per port. It also offers better handling of multicasts, plus port- and user-based ACL support to automate configuration of VLAN settings and other network parameters. The 2610 also supports the simultaneous use of its various authentication options on each port. For example, one person could use a smartcard and another user in the same port could use password authentication.
Fans move air sideways through the switch for cooling, and the chassis can be mounted horizontally in a rack or on a shelf, or vertically against a wall. The rear panel has connectors for mains power, plus a 50V redundant input to provide PoE power in case the switch's mains supply should fail. There's also a 12V redundant power supply input to keep the switch running if its PSU fails.
All the other connectors, along with two recessed reset switches, are on the front panel. As well as the 24 100Base-T Ethernet connectors, there are two RJ-45-format 1000Base-T ports for linking the 2610 to other switches. Two unpopulated mini-GBIC sockets are also available for linking the switch to fibre cables, and HP offers a range of Gigabit SX and LX GBIC options to suit most requirements. Finally an RJ-45-format serial connector enables the switch to be configured using a standard RS-232 serial port. However, by default the switch will acquire an IP address from a DHCP server, so most network administrators would probably setup the switch using a LAN connection. For example, in our Lab tests we made a telnet connection to the switch using a DHCP-acquired IP address, and once attached, we reconfigured the switch with a static IP address.
HP ProCurve Manager (PCM) is required to access sophisticated features such as sFlow monitoring and reporting.
Basic management of the switch can be done using a web browser. We needed to download and install a JVM so that IE 6.0 would work properly with the switch. However, you'll need to install HP ProCurve Manager software on a Windows workstation to access the more sophisticated switch functions such as its sFlow monitoring and reporting features. sFlow samples packets on the network, and sends these to a ProCurve Manager (PCM) system that can run reports, for example, to identify top talkers and bottlenecks. The software also spots and reports on abnormal traffic patterns.
Packets are sampled by sFlow and sent to PCM, which creates reports.
We tested the sFlow capabilities by connecting the switch to our test LAN and installing ProCurve Manager 2.3 onto a system running Windows Server 2003. Windows Server 2000 and XP SP2 could also be used, but other versions, including Vista, are not supported. PCM requires at least 1GB of RAM to run. PCM 2.3 also needs to be updated before it supports the 2610 range.
We used the auto update feature in PCM's Preferences dialogue box to download and install the updates. The auto update seemed rather simple compared to others we have seen: it told us to shut down the PCM Client application, and eventually shutdown PCM itself. We needed to wait a few minutes and manually restart PCM .
PCM can handle multiple HP switches, and relies on their browser-based management capabilities for some functions. We found options to configure VLANs and to lockout faulty or troublesome devices by specifying their MAC address. We were also impressed by the Top Talker traffic monitoring graphs, which have colour-coded lines that group together traffic from related flows. Similarly, we could click on individual lines in the graph and see the relevant IP addresses and IP ports listed in a table above the graph. Such capabilities should allow network managers to quickly identify top talkers and the top traffic flows associated with them. Overall though, PCM is a fairly complex application, and most network managers would probably benefit from some training in order to get the most from it.