Why Cisco should fear HP

Earlier this year, Cisco made headlines with their UCS B-Series Blade Servers.  They followed this up with the Nexus 1000v and several other announcements including a partnership with BMC.  At the time I called this announcement a letdown as I hoped that Cisco would re-invent the server market turning it a new “servernet” device.

Today, HP announced the availability of the ProCurve 6120 series Blade Switch integrated with the BladeSystem cClass infrastructure.  This is a significant announcement from HP and one that heightens their war with Cisco.  Doesn’t Cisco make a 3200 for HP c-Class BladeSystems?

In yet another fracture between HP and Cisco, HP now has the capabilities and product offerings to steal Cisco’s UC thunder.  In fact, one could argue that HP has a stronger position within this market as they have servers, storage, networking, management, and service capabilities all wrapped in an HP bow.

To date, Cisco has been battling smaller rivals for dominance in the Enterprise; Juniper, Brocade, Enterasys, 3Com, and more.  However, this fight has been on Cisco’s turf; networking.  Today, Cisco is fighting equal or larger rivals in the Enterprise; HP, IBM (OEMs), and others.  However, this fight is on foreign soil that Cisco has no base of operation; servers.

Until IBM decides to get back into networking by purchasing Juniper, Brocade, or both, HP remains Cisco’s number one challenge.  Cisco relies on HP on many fronts of which I’ll highlight two points; to re-sell Cisco hardware and to OEM HP’s Network Management Software called Network Compliance Manager.  The importance of re-selling of Cisco hardware is self-evident but what about the OEM relationship?

The key to UC is management.  In fact the key to cloud computing, virtualization, PAAS, SAAS, or whatever you want to call it is management.  While HP has a strong offering of management software, Cisco continues to rely on OEMs or partnerships to fill this gap.  What’s wrong with this strategy?  Simply put, if you are going to push a vision you better be able to support the vision.  VMware has awoken to this fact and is finally pushing aggressively into virtualization management.  So too will Cisco, as they cannot continue to make management the “red-headed step-child” of their billion dollar empire.  Eventually, Cisco will need to either purchase BMC or home-grow a real solution.

Mark Hurd, CEO and Chairman of the Board of HP, has definitely proven to the world that he plays to win.  As Hurd and his team aggressively integrate HP into a Unified Powerhouse (UP), Cisco’s Unifed Communications (UC) is well within their cross-hairs.  With any infection point of technology comes a changing of the guard, will UC be Cisco’s un-doing?

As a reader of Platen, you know the respect and admiration I have for John Chambers and his leadership.  However, if I were Cisco I’d stop battling Apple and Kodak and start making their UC strategy a reality.


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