HP has announced three new low-price Procurve switch families aimed at business.

The ProCurve Switch 1800, 2810 and 2510 are aimed directly at switches made by 3Com, Cisco, D-Link, Netgear and Nortel and hope to steal their market by offering a wider range of features, in a smaller size, for less money.

The new products follow ProCurve's strategy of reliable, low-cost switches tailored for specific types of businesses, according to Katie Trippet, an analyst with Synergy Research. The ProCurve Switch 1800 is well suited for a small business with little or no IT staff, while the 2810 is aimed at larger, more sophisticated businesses with built-in management, Gigabit support and as many as 48 ports.

ProCurve technical consultant Nick Hancock said that all the new switches are SNMP-visible, although the 1800 is read-only. He added that the 2810 also provides Sflow traffic monitoring and is shallower than the old 2800, making it easier to fit in wall-mounted cabinets.

Both the eight-port 1800 and the 2510 are fan-less, thanks to improved thermal design. "Fan noise can be an issue in some environments such as schools," Hancock said, adding though that the power consumption of Gigabit Ethernet is still too high to permit a fan-less 24 port design. Trippet said the new Layer 2 switches fit the needs of businesses that don't want Layer 3 and 4 security features but might want a managed switch with Gigabit uplinks at a lower price.

For instance, Jerry Luedtke, IS director at Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers in the US, is buying 22 of the ProCurve Switch 1800-8G switches at $209 (£115) each, instead of Cisco 2940s that cost $729 (£400). Luedtke said he uses the switches in offices that have a single Ethernet connection but multiple VoIP phones, PCs and printers. "I Velcro one of these under a desk and shoot cables out to the other devices," he said. Users don't know the switch is there because it is hidden and silent.

The ProCurve switches are an upgrade from the unmanaged Linksys switches that Luedtke had been using. He prefers the ProCurves because they are manageable from a web interface and support virtual LANs (VLAN). He said he sets up separate VLANs for the IP phones, printers, PCs and wireless access points, all of which might be deployed in an office with a single wired network connection. With the Linksys switches, all the devices attached to them had to belong to a single VLAN.

While he prefers command line interfaces for management, Luedtke said he finds the web interface easy to use by following the documentation that comes with the switches. HP ProCurve said that the 1800 is its first switch with the web interface. This differs from fully managed ProCurve switches in that the web-managed switches have no command line interface or console port, and they support a shorter list of configurable features.

Hancock admitted that HP is late into this smart switch market, but claimed that unlike rival products, the ProCurve version will "integrate with the overall network infrastructure as well".

The ProCurve Switch 1800 comes in two models, the 1800-8G at £115, and the 1800-24G at £273. The 1800-8G has eight Gigabit UTP Ethernet ports, and the 1800-24G has 24 Gigabit UTP ports, two of which can be connected either to Gig UTP uplinks or to fibre uplinks via GBICs that start from around £230 for 1000Base-SX.

The £237 ProCurve Switch 2510-24 is a managed 10/100 Layer 2 switch which also has two of the dual-personality Gigabit ports that support fibre or UTP, giving it a total of 26 ports. The ProCurve Switch 2810 comes in two models, 2810-24G and 2810-48G, which have 24 and 48 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports respectively, four of them dual-personality. The two versions list at £1,172 and £2,187 respectively.