Hewlett Packard has launched an aggregator switch with six ports of 10 Gigabit Ethernet, bringing the 10Gig cost down below $1,000 per port - trumping Foundry's announcement, last month of 10Gig at $1,500. The switch is a curtain raiser for HP's core switch, which will appear in the middle of 2005.

The 6400cl stackable switch is intended for mesh backbones, for links within a server farm, for distributing 10Gig Ethernet through a campus, or aggregating stacks in wiring closets. There are two versions: the all-copper version has six CX4 copper ports, for $5,429, with an optional two-port module at the rear, that can be either copper or fibre, for uplinks. The fibre version, the 6410, costs $8,099, though transceiver modules can cost up to $4,000 each for long-range fibre.

HP presents an aggressive price comparison with Foundry - which is currently the only other vendor with a product in 10Gig aggregation and, ironically, is also HP's partner for high-end core switches. Cheap(er) ports in the mid-tier of the network is the next step in making 10Gig more affordable and widespread (see 10Gig Ethernet pitches for prime time).

The 6400 switches are designed to work with the 3400 workgroup switches which HP launched last month. For expansion, the 6400 uses the same two-port module that the 3400 uses for 10Gig uplinks.

HP had a few more details on the new core switch it is now promising for the middle of next year. The switch, which it claims will cut network costs by about 30 percent, appears to have settled on a somewhat confusing name (for a core switch): the Edge Fabric. "The Edge Fabric is effectively a very high-speed Layer 2 switch," said Jon Weatherall, UK manager for HP ProCurve. Unlike traditional core switches, it will only operate at Layer 2, deferring all routing decisions to intelligent (Layer 3) switches which are at the edge, and controlled by central policy management.

The migration path to this involves putting in Layer 3 switches now, and then switching from an intelligent core switch to a low-cost, high performance core. "We will roll them out in the middle of 2005, and the true migration starts then," said Weatherall. He explained how a core switch has come to be known as an "Edge Fabric": it is a fabric switch intended for an "edge" architecture.

To us, it sounds more like something out of dressmaking, and likely to be confused with other kinds of interfacing.