HP's New Curve
The plug-in blade allows users to manage standalone and switched access points via the 5300 wired switch. The switch is controlled by HP's ProCurve Manager software suite, which network administrators can use to set and enforce security policies and configure wired and wireless devices.
William Souder, director of computing and network services at Berry College in Rome, Georgia, says that the ability to manage wired and wireless security at the edge of the network was one of the big selling points for him.
Berry College has been using ProCurve wired networking gear for six years. The liberal-arts college -- which has 36 access points covering around one-fourth of its 28,000 acre campus -- is still running an Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) 802.11 system for wireless. The college bought the kit when the French vendor was rebadging product from startup Airespace. Then Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) stepped in to spoil that little transatlantic romance.
"That's what started us looking," explains Souder. "When Cisco bought Airespace."
Souder initially considered the HP-700 series wireless LAN controller but decided against it. (See HP's Security Badge .) "They told us they wouldn't be offering a general lifetime warranty," Souder explains.
Souder also examined products from Alcatel -- now reselling Aruba Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: ARUN) gear -- and Enterasys Networks Inc. . Those systems, however, proved too expensive.
In addition, Souder says that the Alcatel-Airespace experience left him slightly leery of using products developed by startups. "We didn't want to get caught by the 'Hey we've just been bought' bug again," he tells Unstrung.
This made the new HP wireless module a logical choice for Berry College -- especially since the vendor is offering a general lifetime warranty on this blade upgrade.
It fits nicely with the 5300 and integrates with the management suite," says Souder.
Analysts expect that the wireless upgrade will appeal to existing HP customers like Berry College as well as users looking to put a complete system in place.
Gartner Inc. analyst Ken Dulaney describes the launch as a "foundational achievement" for HP. "Almost every wired vendor is doing that same integration ... But HP is a solid LAN vendor in clients' minds. And there are clients who want to expand their HP network with HP equipment."
"ProCurve is bringing better security and management to the table," says Forrester Research Inc. analyst Robert Whiteley. "Both are near-term advantages, but coupled with ProCurve’s growth and its strong No. 2 position behind Cisco [this] should sway enterprises."
The launch is also another step in the long-held ambitions of many of the more established vendors in the networking space -- unifying the management of both WiFi and wired traffic.
For several years, industry figures have been saying that wired and wireless networking will converge, leaving users with one switch to manage it all. That shift, however, is taking longer than some had predicted. Analysts still expect that, going forward, hybrid wired-radio networking will be big in the enterprise. "I think it is an important direction for the industry," says Craig Mathias, principal at the Farpoint Group (and an Unstrung contributor). "The lines between wired and wireless are blurring."
This doesn't simply mean that wireless will become an adjunct of the wired network, however. Companies like Meru Networks Inc. and Xirrus Inc. are pushing enterprises to offload more of what would traditionally be seen as wired traffic onto new high-capacity wireless products.
"There's no way of telling which way it will go," says Mathias. Either way, though, it makes sense to start combining the management of both types of network traffic.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung