HP ProCurve Switch 3400cl-24G review
The tumbling prices for Gigabit Ethernet makes this an ideal time to deploy high-speed links to the network edge and right down to the desktop. Over the past year, we’ve seen prices drop to as little as £20 per switched port, making it highly affordable for smaller businesses too. At first glance, HP’s latest ProCurve Switch 3400cl may not offer the best value on a per-port basis, but it does deliver a top-notch specification and full support for a range of 10Gb uplinks.
Yet again, HP is competing directly with Cisco, as it’s pitching the 3400cl as a more cost-effective option to the Catalyst 3750G-16TD. It isn’t that difficult to beat Cisco on price in any area of networking, but in this case the 3400cl does an excellent job, as at the time of writing the basic Cisco alternative costs over twice as much. Furthermore, the 3400cl-24G on review provides 20 Gigabit ports, four dual-personality ports and its 10Gb modules have a pair of ports each.
Uptake of 10Gb switching has been slow due to high initial costs. Enterprise brought you an exclusive look at 10Gb Ethernet in 2001 with the Enterasys Matrix E1, a proprietary solution priced at about £20,000. However, larger companies are now seeing 10Gb as the ideal solution for traffic aggregation, and demand is fuelling price cuts. The approval of the IEEE 802.3ak standard last year also produced much interest. This calls for 10Gb over copper connections up to 15m and is aimed at server clustering. Along with a full range of 10Gb fibre connections, HP also offers support for dual copper ports. A single media slot at the rear of the switch accepts a fixed 10GBASE-CX4 dual-port module or a new Media Flex unit card, which supports fibre or copper transceivers.
The switch comes with remote browser access, which can be secured over SSL sessions. The interface is common to all managed HP switches and is still one of the best on the market. A comprehensive alert log offers advice about network problems, the likely causes and suggestions for remedial action, while a bar graph shows general port activity. It gets even better with the bundled ProCurve Manager utility. This provides automatic device discovery and network mapping that can show networks, subnets and VLANs. It will also poll any SNMP-enabled nodes such as workstations and servers, and advise if any are unreachable. The homepage provides a general overview of the status of switches and end devices, general traffic measurements, plus a count of discovered devices and events. A handy dashboard gives a complete overview of general network traffic status and you can see easily if any switches are running configurations that differ from the chosen defaults. The optional Plus version offers features such as remote VLAN creation and policy deployment to multiple switches, and it can analyse network performance data to identify traffic trends or potential problems.
HP’s ProCurve products are a cost-effective option that combine excellent build quality and good specifications. The 3400cl-24G offers good-value 10Gb uplink options, and the browser interface and bundled software are worthy opponents to Cisco’s management tools.