Hewlett Packard has delayed a core switch that it promised would take on the might of Cisco, launching a product from Foundry Networks instead. Meanwhile, the other potential Cisco challenger, 3Com launched another product from its technology deal with China's Huawei.

A year ago, HP licensed core switch technology from Riverstone, promising a low-cost core switch designed for an intelligent edge network. The 8100 switch, whose announcement was expected last Autumn, has been delayed.

"The 8100 has been slightly delayed," said Jon Weatherall, HP's UK ProCurve manager. "We're still doing quality testing, to make sure that when we do get to market it will be reliable and robust."

Monday's launch of a Foundry-based chassis switch, branded the ProCurve 9400, was not to plug a gap caused by the 8100's delay, said Weatherall. "The 9400 was always in the plan," he said, "We made the decision to launch it before we acquired the Riverstone technology."

The two switch designs are so different that customers will need both for some time, explained Weatherall. "In customer networks, there will be a hybrid situation, where people have traditional core switches and an intelligent edge." The Foundry-based 9400 is a traditional intelligent chassis switch, with 32 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports, and follows on from the existing 9300 switch that HP currently sells, while the 8100 will be a fast switching fabric that relies on the edge for features like prioritisation and authorisation, he said.

The Foundry-based 9400 switch is designed to move to future 40 Gigabit Ethernet standards with a change of blades. Also in the realms of future-proofing, it supports IP version six: "We're not expecting a huge rush for IPv6," said Weatherall. "But it is there for when the enterprise wants it."

While HP's own desktop and workgroup switches have a lifetime warranty, the Foundry-based core switches have a year's warranty and a lifetime promise of free software upgrades. Like the 9300, the 9400 is intended for aggregating smaller Gigabit and 10 Gigabit switches.

HP also upgraded ProCurve Manager, the free switch management software included in its products, and ProCurve Manager Plus, the paid-for version, which adds features like sFlow monitoring and automates firmware upgrades. ProCurve Manager Plus also includes a Radius server to authenticate users and network managers.

3Com, by contrast, whose Huawei-based 8800 core switch was launched last year, rounded out its range with the 5500G 10/100/Gigabit stackable switch for the edge of the network. Up to eight 5500s can be stacked, giving 384 ports.