Cisco’s New Data Center Products Trump HP’s New Avaya Partnership

HP continues to plug-the-holes against Cisco by signing a three-year agreement with Avaya.  The agreement calls for HP sales and services teams to be trained and certified in Avaya call center and unified communications.  HP sales teams will have the ability to resell Avaya and offer outsourced management.

What’s interesting about this announcement is that HP now has agreements with multiple competitors for the next generation data center including Brocade and Avaya.  If you add the potential overlap between Avaya and Alcatel-Lucent mixed with a bit of Microsoft then you have the danger of some explosive conflict.  Of course, HP is no stranger to handling this type of conflict.  However, would a future Avaya acquisition make better strategic sense for HP?

Meanwhile, as HP strengthens their partnerships, Cisco strengthens their next generation data center arsenal.  Once again, Cisco has trumped their competitors by introducing FabricPath, a superset of the emerging IETF standard called Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL).  Remember, Brocade is committed to TRILL within their recently announced Brocade Virtual Cluster Switching (VCS).

FabricPath is an upgrade to NX-OS that combines the best of layer-3 routing and layer-2 switching allowing for scaleable data centers with predictable network performance.  Take the following example from Cisco that was featured in an article by Kevin Komiega in InfoStor:

“With spanning-tree you have multiple links which are blocked and a high level of oversubscription. With FabricPath you can build a scalable, flat, non-blocking network with two layers and no oversubscription with a 16X improvement in bandwidth performance,” says Nikhil Kelshikar, product marketing manager for Cisco Nexus 7000 Solutions.

Additionally, FabricPath and Cisco’s new F-Series modules for the Nexus 7000 allow Cisco to combine six Nexus 7000 switches into a single product.  Cisco is offering a pre-packaged solution called FabricPath Switching System (FSS) that can be grouped in clusters of eight to allow for 160Tbps of raw switching capacity.  Wow, did I just write that?  Not to mention the fact that Cisco just took the air out of Juniper’s Stratus Unified Fabric.

If that wasn’t enough, Cisco announced the availability of a software release of WAAS that can be run as on on-demand service on the Cisco ISR.   Next, Cisco rolled-out new cloud deployment professional services and Cisco introduced a new Catalyst 4948-E Switch with increased capacity, performance, and automation.

Finally, Cisco is introducing Cisco Intelligent Automation Solutions for IT Services.  Building on Cisco’s acquisition of Tidal Software, Inc., they are releasing new versions of the Tidal Enterprise Scheduler and Tidal Enterprise Orchestrator.  As any reader of this blog knows, I am very interested in the autonomic aspects of the next generation data center and I hope to obtain additional information about this solution.

In this latest round of the battle for the next generation data center, Cisco’s products trump HP’s partnerships.

Quick Alert: HP and Brocade; “…Be Nice Until It’s Time to Not Be Nice…”

The HP Technology Forum 2010 is in full swing as HP and Brocade continue to “be nice” and reaffirm their decade old partnership.  According to Brocade’s press release, “…Brocade and HP enjoy the largest SAN customer base with over 3.5 million HP B-series ports installed.”  Note: HP OEM’s Brocade’s technology under the HP StorageWorks brand.

What did they announce? A new 64-port 8Gbps Fibre Channel module for HP’s StorageWorks SAN switches, a new host bus adapter card for HP’s BladeSystem C-class servers, and a the availability of HP StorageWorks P2000 G3 Smart Array that creates a deployment ready bundle of storage arrays, SAN switches, and HBAs.

Brocade has a two-pronged strategy: Arm the likes of HP and IBM with OEM’d products and provide a competitive vision of the next generation data center within Brocade One.  This “have your cake and eat it too” strategy is needed to combat Brocade’s largest rivals while shielding them from Cisco.  However, whatever revenue benefits this brings Brocade in the short-term may be overshadowed by an inevitable showdown between Brocade Foundry and HP ProCurve in the long-term.  After all, if you are Brocade you don’t spend $3 billion on Foundry Networks to play third or fourth fiddle and if you are HP you don’t spend $2.7 billion on 3Com to “margin share” with an OEM.

In the end, I’m reminded of a scene in Road House where Dalton says; “I want you to be nice until it’s time to not be nice.”  And how will you know when not to be nice?  When Mark Hurd says so.