HP ProCurve is adding a security blade to its edge and core switches. The company said that this would help prevent malware by enabling businesses to insert firewalls, VPNs and IDS/IPSs wherever they have one of the switches.

The modules are managed by ProCurve Manager Plus, streamlining the management of network security by using the same console that is used for managing the switches. In addition, the modules plug into the switches, reducing the number of boxes deployed in equipment closets, HP ProCurve said.

This is just the first entry for HP ProCurve into security and will be followed up by more offerings, says Mauricio Sanchez, chief security architect for ProCurve Networking. He wouldn't say what those offerings will be or when they will be available.

This addition to the switch line is another step in the battle between Cisco and HP for presence in corporate data centres, says John Kindervag, an analyst with Forrester Research. Cisco recently announced its intent to sell blade servers that can be used to support virtual environments within data centres, challenging more traditional data-centre server vendors such as IBM, Dell and, most relevant here, HP, he said.

EDS, an HP services company, has an alliance to sell Cisco gear into its customer accounts, and that could be challenged by this HP ProCurve offering, says Kidervag. "They can tie this in with EDS and their own EDS data centers," he says. "The EDS name pushes a lot of gear."

He notes that for customers, the unified switch/security management platform and price will be attractive. "It's going to be a heck of a lot cheaper than Cisco, and this stuff can scale," he says. "The management software is more robust. Cisco's Achilles' heel is it's really hard to manage it."

Cutting out the high salaries of highly trained Cisco engineers might also draw customers interested in lower data centre operations costs, he says.

The security blades fit in ProCurve 5400 edge and 8200 core switches, and come with firewall, VPN and IPS software installed. The price is US$13,000 and includes one year's support, a lifetime hardware warrantee except for the hard drive, which is warranteed for five years.

Firewall speed on the blade is 3Gbit/s, and the IDS/IPS is 3Gbit/s. The VPN clocks 300Mbit/s when it is running alone on the hardware, and slower if other features are turned on, ProCurve says.

Some of the components of the blades are licensed from other vendors, but Sanchez would not say which ones.
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