HP 2920 Ethernet Switches: Flexibility, Scalability, Value

With solid construction and robust capabilities, the HP 2920 Switch Series offers plenty of networking bang for your enterprise buck.

By Frank Ohlhorst | Posted May 8, 2013
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As Ethernet switches rapidly approach commodity status, switch vendors strive for relevance in an ever-evolving landscape. Industry giant HP looks to maintain its market leadership with the introduction of the HP 2920 Switch Series. The 2920 family combines flexibility with value while maintaining scalability for even the largest of enterprises.

The HP 2920 Switch Series consists of four switches. The HP 2920-24G and 2920-24G-PoE+ (Power over Ethernet) Switches offer twenty-four 10/100/1000 ports; the HP 2920-48G and 2920-48G-PoE+ Switches provide forty-eight 10/100/1000 ports. Each switch has four dual-personality ports for 10/100/1000 or SFP connectivity. The 2920 switch series also supports up to four optional 10 Gigabit Ethernet (SFP+ and/or 10GBASE-T) ports, as well as a two-port stacking module.

OpenFlow and so much more

Hewlett-Packard provided me with sample 2920-48G-PoE and 2920-24G switches. I set the switches up in a stacked configuration to test configurability, scalability, VLAN, and other capabilities, as well as to explore the management options bundled with the switches.

HP 2920 switch

One of the first things I noticed was the quality of the switches' construction. With metal chassis and quality components, the units are built like tanks. No wonder HP offers a lifetime warranty on the units, with advance replacement and next-business-day delivery: the vendor doesn’t expect these switches to fail due to any manufacturing or design shortcomings.

Quality construction and a robust warranty are crucial elements for any switch, but the feature set is what determines a switch's usability. HP loaded the 2920s up with a vast array of capabilities, matching what any other vendor could offer and then some. The laundry list of features includes the expected, such as Quality of Service (QoS), IPv6 support, SNMP management, Layer 2 switching, and 802.1X. But it's the unexpected that brings interest to the 2920 family: OpenFlow support, integrated out-of-band management, and LLDP-MED discovery.

Those features and more elevate the 2920 family's importance. HP has set out to create a switch that performs well in multiple use cases, including those where scalability is crucial, such as in the modern data center.

For example, the 2920 switches come integrated with LLDP-MED. This extension to the link layer discovery protocol is designed to detect media endpoints, critical for sites using VoIP and VoIP-enabled Ethernet phones, videoconferencing equipment, and other communications devices. LLDP-MED also brings support for Enhanced 911 services to VoIP phones and devices. With this, administrators can create location databases and incorporate device location discovery.

Other capabilities centered on supporting the enterprise include high-speed failover, high port densities, and QoS for rich media communications. Software Defined Networking (SDN) support is another important element for enterprise networks. By incorporating OpenFlow into the 2920 family, HP allows infrastructure architects to create software defined networks that separate data paths from control paths.

The switches also support ring and chain stacking methodologies, which improve failover support by allowing member switches in the stack to continue operating, even with multiple failures. 2920 switches that feature PoE+ as part of the model designator support multiple allocation methods, such as automatic, IEEE 802.3at dynamic, LLDP-MED fine grain, IEEE 802.3af device class, or user-specified, allowing for more efficient management and consequent energy savings.

The 2920s incorporate multiple Layer 2 capabilities, such as VLAN support and tagging, GARP VLAN registration, Jumbo Packets, IEEE 802.1v protocol-based VLANs, and full spanning tree support for VLAN spans (RPVST+).

HP 2920 security and performance

In addition to all that, the HP 2920 switches also come with strong security capabilities. Native support for everything from 802.1x and ACLs to SSL makes the units viable for a broad range of use cases. Network managers will appreciate the monitoring and management capabilities incorporated into the devices, such as full digital optical monitoring for SFP+ and 1000BASE-T transceivers.

On the performance front, the units leverage HP’s ProVision ASIC architecture, touted as a low-latency, high-speed routing platform. What’s more, adaptive power controls reduce power consumption during low utilization. Energy-efficient Ethernet (EEE) support further cuts power consumption across the board.

While HP’s 2920 series of Ethernet switches may prove a vast improvement over previous generation switches, industry giants like Cisco Systems still offer stiff competition. With that in mind, HP commissioned a report from independent testing organization Tolly. The report offered several insights into the 2920s' superiority:

  • The HP 2920 switches provide up to fifty-eight percent faster throughput than the competitive Cisco Catalyst 2960-S in a two-member stack.
  • HP 2920 switches offer up to 7.5x faster stack failover than the Cisco 2960-S and 140x faster stack failover than the Cisco 3750-X.
  • HP 2920 switch buffers support up to 12.5x and 11.5x more frames in a microburst than the Cisco 2960-S and Cisco 3750-X switches, respectively.
  • The 2920s reduce TCO by twenty-nine percent over Cisco 2960-S switches.
  • HP 2920s deliver twenty-nine percent lower average latency than the 2960-S and forty percent lower average latency than the Cisco 3750-X.

The HP 2920 Switch Series starts at $1,425.

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