Cisco and HP collaborate on blade switch

Perhaps it’s a matter of keeping your friends close but your enemies closer: Bitter data centre and networking rivals Cisco and HP collaborated to develop a switch for HP’s blade server systems to address the needs of joint customers.

The Cisco Fabric Extender for HP BladeSystem, also known as the Cisco Nexus B22 Fabric Extender for HP, offers tighter integration for customers investing in HP BladeSystem servers and Cisco Nexus switches and preserves investments in existing data centre technology, the companies say. Cisco fabric extenders are devices designed to broaden the reach of Nexus 5000 and 7000 switch fabrics closer to the server rack for greater scalability.

It’s a curious collaboration, considering that Cisco and HP have become very vocal rivals since Cisco’s entry into the data centre server market and HP’s acquisition of networking pioneer 3Com. Indeed, it would seem to undermine both companies’ respective efforts in those market expansions. And HP is a leading provider of blade switches for data centre servers.

“I’m a little surprised,” says Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research. “I thought they would have gone to anyone but Cisco. It might be an indicator of the quality of that product. I don’t think (HP Networking) has that functionality so the server group has to do what it has to do.”

But HP points out that it has a lot of joint customers using HP servers and Cisco switches.

“BladeSystem customers are looking to HP for solutions that easily integrate into existing environments,” said Jim Ganthier, vice-president of marketing, Industry Standard Servers and Software at HP, in a statement. “This new solution allows industry-standard collaboration options for enterprises choosing HP BladeSystem c-Class infrastructure.”

“This is all about customer demand and supporting our Cisco networking customers,” says Soni Jiandani, senior vice-president of Cisco’s Server, Access and Virtualization Technology Group. “Both HP and Cisco recognize that we have a large base of joint customers. Many customers have HP servers and enclosures while investing in Cisco’s networking infrastructure. For those customers, it is important to ensure they have choice. Cisco has traditionally been a part of the HP BladeSystem portfolio with Catalyst 3020 and 3120 series and the MDS9124 Fabric Switches and we are now extending this to the Nexus FEX for HP BladeSystem.”

The Cisco Fabric Extender for HP BladeSystem is available now from HP. Pricing begins at US$9,799.

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