IBM Tightens Ties With Cisco and Its Rivals

IBM is expanding its networking products portfolio today with new offerings from Juniper, Cisco and Brocade — a move that enhances Big Blue’s capacity to offer switching gear while also keeping it tied into competitive efforts by giants like Cisco to grab more of the datacenter business.

As part of the portfolio expansion, IBM (NYSE: IBM) will build into its own solutions new storage gear from Brocade (NASDAQ: BRCD), with which it already has an OEM deal, while starting a new OEM deal with Juniper (NASDAQ: JNPR).

In contrast, the Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) products are being sold by IBM as an extension of an existing reseller partnership.

With Cisco, IBM is now set to resell Cisco’s Nexus 5000 Series switches, which include a fixed configuration 40-port 10GbE chassis.

Nexus is Cisco’s next-generation, virtualization-aware switching platform that first debuted in January of 2008 with the Nexus 7000. The Nexus is also a key part of Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS) blade architecture that represents a competitive challenge to offerings from IBM, HP and other blade vendors.

“With this announcement, IBM has expanded the Cisco networking and storage networking solution portfolio for its customers and illustrates that Cisco and IBM are continuing to work closely to drive innovation in the datacenter,” Cisco spokesperson Pamela Ferrill told

Spokespeople from IBM were not immediately available for comment.

Despite the new competition from Cisco, IBM still remains willing to work with the networking giant. But at the same time, it’s also strengthening its ties with Cisco’s own rivals.

Previously, IBM only had a reseller agreement with Juniper. But through today’s deals, it’s now elevating the company to a new level.

Through the deal, Juniper’s gear will carry IBM labeling and product numbers but will still have Juniper’s JUNOS operating system inside. Andy Vandeveld, vice president of strategic alliances at Juniper, told that IBM customers will also get their JUNOS updates directly from IBM, though those updates will have the same JUNOS operating system that Juniper makes available to it own direct customers.

He added that the benefit for customers is they call IBM and get their front-line support from Big Blue.

Juniper executives see the move as proof that IBM sees value in Juniper’s gear.

“It’s always a very positive sign when IBM agrees to resell products and technologies from a supplier,” Mike Banic, vice president of marketing for Juniper’s Ethernet platforms unit, told “But it shows a significant deepening of commitment when IBM makes a decision to private label a product and OEM it, because it’s a longer-term commitment they are making to the product technology and the solution it enables.”

Juniper and IBM have had a reseller agreement dating back to 2007, covering the entire Juniper product lineup. The new OEM deal covers Juniper’s EX4200 and EX8200 switching gear as well as Juniper’s MX240, MX480 and MX960 routers.

Juniper has specifically cited IBM as a key reseller of its EX switches. The switch business itself is still a relatively new one for Juniper as it only entered the market at the beginning of 2008. The MX-class routers are high-capacity boxes, with the MX960 providing up to 960 Gbps of routing capacity.

Banic does not see the fact that IBM is OEM’ing Juniper gear as a potential cannibalization of the existing reseller agreement. Rather in his view, customers that buy the IBM branded product are likely looking for a complete and broader IBM solution.

There could also be a different sales incentive when it comes to IBM.

“The benefit of an IBM label on the box is it gives IBM sales even more incentive to sell the box,” Vandeveld said. “In a reseller situation when it’s the vendor’s label on the box the full incentive isn’t realized. An IBM’er gets paid on selling IBM and this will be treated as an IBM product with full IBM seller treatment.”

IBM is also expanding its OEM partnership with Brocade to include a pair of new
Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) offerings.

As a result of the deal with Brocade, IBM will offer its Converged Switch B32 and 10Gb Converged Network Adapter (CNA) for IBM System x, marking Big Blue’s first FCoE offerings, it said.

As for Cisco, the OEM route taken by IBM with Brocade and Juniper isn’t necessarily the route that it wants to take.

“Cisco takes pride in the strong brand reputation we have in the networking market so we decided to do a resell agreement with IBM,” Cisco’s Ferrill said.

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