Rivals offer switch alternatives to Cisco
HP and 3Com provide realistic options.
By Jim Duffy | Network World US | Published: 12:28, 10 August 2009
To see if the value stories hold water we started by examining product cost. We culled comparative data from company websites, and the vendors themselves and found that in some cases - not all - switches from HP and 3Com do cost considerably less than comparable Cisco offerings, at least on a starting list price level. For instance, 3Com's S7500E and S7900E modular multilayer 10G and Gigabit switches cost $8,000 less than Cisco's Catalyst 6500.
But it is, of course, hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison. Cisco says the Catalyst 6500 supports three times as many 10G Ethernet ports than 3Com does on the 7500E and 7900E. But 3Com claims the VSS1440 version of Cisco's Catalyst 6500, which Cisco says takes the system's switching capacity to 1.44Tbit/s, is mostly marketing rhetoric. "Although claiming 1400 Gbit/s, (it) is mostly a redundancy scheme," says Dominic Wilde, 3Com's senior director of Global Product Line Marketing for Networking Products. "It does not increase bandwidth as only one supervisor is active."
3Com also claims the Catalyst 6500, with a Supervisor 720 engine, only delivers half the throughput of the 3Com 7500 and 7900 switches for IPv4 packets.
Cisco, meanwhile, claims the 3Com switches and HP's high-end 5400 and 8212 systems line up better with the more Catalyst 4500 - even though 3Com and HP aim their offerings squarely at the 6500. The 4500 E-series chassis ranges in price from $995 to $12,495 while bundled pricing for the 4500 is $11,000 to $18,000. Cisco says an entry level 4500 costs $200 per gigabit Power over Ethernet Plus port.
"We primarily compete with them on the 4500," says Rajiv Ramaswami, vice president and general manager for Cisco's Data Center Switching Technology Group.
In fixed configuration devices, HP's 2910G, a Layer 2 24/48 port 10/100/1000Mbps switch goes up against Cisco's Catalyst 3650 and 3650E, actually costs almost twice as much as the Cisco switches at its lowest list entry point price.
But value is not based on price alone, says Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at The Yankee Group.
"There are different ways to measure value," Kerravala says. "On of the big (aspects) of the value chain for Cisco is the base of Cisco certified engineers out there. You can actually pick up the Yellow Pages to find them. The odds of finding a 3Com or HP guy is hard."
Rob Whiteley of Forrester Research agrees. "If you have an army of (Cisco certified engineers), there's going to be a learning curve and that is the number one reason why the ultimate TCO is a bit more of a wash. The people cost is an order of magnitude more expensive than some of those other (capital and operational) costs."
But HP says the cost of a Cisco SmartNet maintenance contract over five years could cost more than an HP ProCurve network.
"We have had customers who basically said, "I can replace my entire network with ProCurve just by the cost of a Cisco SmartNet maintenance contract," says Sreeram Krishnamachari, HP ProCurve product marketing manager.