Hewlett-Packard has announced its long-promised fast core switch. The so-called Cisco-killer uses a building block approach for networks designed around intelligence at the edge, but HP will continue to traditional Foundry-made core switches for users with traditional centrally-controlled core networks.

The InterConnect Fabric Switch 8100fl family provides high availability, resiliency and automatic configuration features, for the core of networks that have intelligence implemented at the edge for access and security. Developed from technology that HP purchased from Riverstone Networks in June 2004, said Darla Sommerville, vice president of the company's ProCurve unit in the Americas region.

"A fully redundant InterConnect core fabric switch will cost around half the price of a Cisco core routing switch," said Jon Weatherall, HP's UK ProCurve manager. "It will also have free lifetime software upgrades."

An 8 slot unit, the 8108fl, can hold up to eight 10Gbit/s links and 80 1Gbit/s ports. It costs £16,181, including switch fabric and management module, with 10Gbit/s cards costing £6740, and 10 port Gigabit cards costing £4110. So (for example) a switch with 80 Gigabit links would cost £49,000.

The 16 slot version, with double the capacity, starts at £22,588, and takes the same line cards. Each can have a redundant fabric added (£6336 for the 8-slot version, and £11,596 for the 16 slot version), as well as redundant management modules (£7549 for either model) and power supplies (£1733 for either).

The switches are already in use in the UK, at the Cambridgeshire Constabulary, where Jeremy Curtis, network services manager said, "The critical nature of our business requires us to have a solid foundation to build our systems upon. In adopting the ProCurve range, we aimed for good performance, excellent reliability and minimal cost of ownership. Our expectations have been continually exceeded as the range has grown in scope, performance and sophistication.”

Curtis continued, “At times we are required to be technologically creative. The introduction of the ProCurve Adaptive Edge architecture gives us this flexibility."

Rob Whiteley, an analyst at Forrester Research, said the 8100fl is an improvement over HP's existing technologies because it puts redundancy, software modularity and performance management functions in a flexible chassis.

HP also announced Mobility Manager 1.0 software, which will manage wireless access points for enterprise WLANs, and an upgrade of HP's ProCurve Identity Driven Manager software, which handles end-user access rights.

Mobility Manager could be even more useful than the core switch, said Whitely, because it offers a single management console for devices on both wired and wireless networks. But because Mobility Manager isn't due to ship until December, HP "won't have much of a competitive advantage," Whiteley said. He noted that Cisco Systems is developing similar functionality using technology it acquired with Airespace last March.

A power-over-Ethernet switch designed to simplify the deployment of wireless access points and voice over IP installations, will round out the product announcements.