HP Touts Energy Efficient Ethernet Switches

HP is touting its green credentials with the introduction of its energy efficient E-Series switch modules

Executives at Hewlett-Packard are claiming that it is now offering the first energy-efficient network switch modules from a major vendor that adopt the new EEE (Energy Efficient Ethernet) standard, as well as taking advantage of new HP software to further drive efficiency and performance.

The 10 new E-Series zl modules also are another key differentiator for HP as it ramps up the competition against top networking vendor Cisco Systems, according to HP officials.

The IEEE Energy Efficient Ethernet standard, or IEEE 802.3az, is designed to automatically adjust the power consumption of IT devices based on the actual network traffic running between switches and other networked devices, a capability designed to reduce the overall power usage, according to HP.

Sleepy Time

The vendor’s new E-Series zl modules, for HP’s E8200 zl and E5400 zl networking platforms, can enter into a sleep mode when there is no traffic being sent. The sleep mode not only lets EEE-enable devices consume less power while idling than they would idling at full power, but it also enables instant power-up when network traffic starts flowing. Combined with HP’s use of new ASICs, the modules can help cut the power consumption of the Ethernet ports by more than half.

It’s a capability available to any vendor of Ethernet devices, but one that HP is first in coming out with, Mark Hilton, director of product marketing for HP Networking, said in an interview with eWEEK.

“We’re the first to market with this kind of capability,” Hilton said.

In the highly competitive and volatile networking space, where rivals not only include Cisco but the likes of Juniper Networks, Extreme Networks and Brocade Communications Systems, being first to market with such technology is important, he said. Many of these vendors, as well as others like Broadcom, are working on IEEE 802.3az-capable products.

HP significantly bulked up its networking capability when it bought 3Com for $2.7 billion (£2.2 billion) earlier this year, a move that gave the company stronger enterprise-level products. HP sees an opportunity – with the rapidly evolving nature of data centres and the tight economic times – to take business away from Cisco, which has dominated the networking space for more than a decade.

“This basically single-vendor-dominated environment is not conducive to choice, and that is an opportunity for HP,” Marius Haas, senior vice president and general manager of HP’s networking business, said in an interview with eWEEK.

HP saw networking revenue in its fiscal fourth quarter grow 50 percent, and said that revenue growth tied to 3Com is ahead of schedule.

Standards Drive

Continuing to differentiate its products, in both price and capabilities, will be important for HP going forward. The new energy-efficient Ethernet networking modules, introduced 7 December, are examples, HP officials said. HP’s ability to take advantage of the new standard comes from the use of Broadcom’s PHY product as well as the new ASIC network node switch, which has its own energy-efficient features, including giving businesses the ability to increase port density and the ability to turn off various network components when they’re not being used. Regarding density, HP can now grow the number of ports in a 10 Gigabit Ethernet chassis from 48 to 96, while improving performance by 62 percent, Hilton said.

“We’re not just talking energy efficiency, but also density, performance and [total cost of ownership],” he said.

A big part of the TCO story comes from that fact the businesses can put these modules into existing chassis, need only a firmware update to start working and can work side-by-side with other modules, Hilton said.