- Modular design allows buyers to choose only the components they actually need
- Power supplies support remote Power Over Ethernet devices
- Built-in software detects several common viruses and hacker activities
- Built in SFLOW capability is useful for diagnosing a wide range of network problems
- Expensive compared to simpler low-end network switches.
Launched in September, the HP Switch 8212zl is an enterprise-class network switch that can be configured with a range of modules to support wired and wireless devices operating at a range of speeds. The chassis has 12 slots for modules that can be configured with up to 288 Gigabit Ethernet ports or 48 10-Gigabit ports. The backplane can handle up to 692Gbps, while the fabric can switch 428Mbps.
Organisations can mix and match two types of 10-Gigabit modules for high-speed backbones, one supporting fibre optic cabling and the other for copper cables. The 8200 chassis is also capable of hosting a sophisticated wireless LAN via one or more Wireless Edge Services zl Modules.
Housed in a 9U (15.75in./40 cm) rack-mount chassis, the 8212zl is likely to be one of the tallest pieces of equipment in a modern datacentre. Customers can configure the chassis with a selection of modules to suit their requirements: each system needs at least one 8200zl Management Module, and our review system came fitted with two. These modules contain the software images needed to run the system, and fitting two ensures that the system keeps running even if one module fails. Our unit also had a System Support Module for monitoring the status of the various components. Two fabric switching modules were also present — again, two were fitted so the system would continue working if one of these modules developed a fault.
Although the components described above are required for a functional unit, they are not used to connect devices to a network. For this, our system was fitted with two J8702A 24-port 1000BaseT modules and a J8705A 24-port Gigabit Ethernet module fitted with 20 1000BaseT ports plus four connectors for mini-GBICs (Gigabit interface converters). The 1000BaseT ports all support Power Over Ethernet (POE), which could be particularly useful for reducing the amount of power cabling required in new or refurbished buildings.
Our system also had a pair of four-port 10-Gigabit modules, one J8708A fitted with connectors supporting 10-Gigabit Ethernet over copper cabling, and one J8707A with empty sockets supporting GBIC optical connectors. The base price for a chassis without power supplies or modules for connecting network cables is £13,557 (ex.. VAT) and comes with a lifetime warranty and free software updates. Our comprehensively specified review configuration was priced at £33,292 (ex. VAT).
The cost of each 10 Gigabit mini-GBIC comes in at about £1,500, and optical cabling is also quite expensive. Prices for the copper-based systems are significantly lower. The downside to using copper cabling is that these cables can be no longer than 15 metres, whereas optical cables can stretch over far greater distances.
Our chassis also had seven empty module slots in its front panel, leaving plenty of room for future expansion. At the back, the system had two of a maximum four power supplies, used to power the switch and to support POE. One was a 1500W unit capable of providing up to 900W for POE devices; the other was an 875W unit providing up to 273W for POE. Two other 50V connectors on the rear of the chassis could be used for external power supply inputs for POE devices.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this switch is its management software. For example, the 8212zl’s SFLOW capability could prove invaluable for problem solving and for proactive network management. Likewise, its policy enforcement capabilities could be used to prioritise specific types of network traffic. Policies are defined via the switch’s web-based management console using a range of parameters — notably by TCP/IP and UDP port number and by IP address.
A range of security features could also prove attractive to many organisations. For example, the switch can automatically prevent some viruses from spreading by blocking routing from hosts that exhibit abnormal traffic behaviour, such as by connecting to a wide range of IP addresses in a short amount of time. Similarly it can identify malicious attacks by detecting ten types of traffic that are indicative of unauthorised activity and send warning messages to administrators.