HP, Cisco Wield Data Center Blades

Two Silicon Valley giants are teaming up once again in the data
center with the lure of consolidation with blade servers
. HP is hoping to entice potential high-end customers
with complementary switch technology from Cisco Systems .

The companies said a new Cisco Gigabit Ethernet Switch Module
incorporated with the existing HP BladeSystem p-Class enclosures will be
available around Feb. 15 and jointly marketed through both sales
channels in all major regions.

Mark Potter, a senior director at HP, told internetnews.com
the offering is the first jointly developed hardware product
announcement in the data center space in the two companies’ long
history. The new partnership, which was first outlined at an HP Software
Universe event in November, is the start of even more joint
projects, he said.

“We have a large number of joint customers that are considering
developing data centers with HP blade systems who want to use Cisco
infrastructure to help with the consolidation,” Potter said. “This is
our strategic innovation center for scale out, including storage and
computing with ProLiant servers. Working with Cisco and tying those
solutions together helps keep that perspective.”

The design of the joint offering includes using 16 blades per chassis
with two switches per blade, Maciej Kranz, director of the Cisco desktop
switch business unit, explained. So instead of connecting each blade one
by one, data center managers can combine four uplinks into the network.

“Each server has two networking ports — one left and one right for
redundancy,” Kranz said. “Each switch can be cross-connected in the
backplane, and those go back into the core infrastructure.”

Kranz said that Cisco will also now partner to resell HP’s OpenView
Management software, making Cisco’s Business Ready Data Center and HP
Adaptive Enterprise design guidelines and virtualization that much more
compatible.

The two companies said the development process for the new offering
was in discussion for several years but was put on the fast track just
last year. Joint testing was done mostly at Cisco labs with some work
being done by HP Labs, Potter said.

“Quite a few more companies than we expected signed up for beta
testing,” Potter said. “[Cisco] used up all the parts they could find to
beta test this.”

But while Potter praised the Cisco partnership, the HP senior
director of its BladeSystem, industry standard server business unit
conceded that Cisco’s products ultimately fill a short-term switch
problem HP hopes to correct soon.

“We compete with Cisco in several areas, but we don’t have a current
product from ProCurve by HP that would work in this situation,” Potter
said.

Last year, HP’s ProCurve division surpassed 3Com and other companies
to take the second place position in switches and router sales behind
Cisco. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company expects to release new
Adaptive EDGE architecture products this spring after releasing six new
boxes late last year.

Kranz acknowledged the rise in competition with HP, but said the new
partnership also helps sell Cisco Catalyst and related products.

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