HP strikes back at Cisco

Last year when I interviewed Paul Tsaparis, president of HP Canada (NYSE: HPQ), on the subject of unified communications he had glowing remarks about the integration partnership his company has with Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) and how it ultimately helps channel partners.

This Monday, at the official launch of the new Unified Computing System from Cisco, I couldn’t help but wonder if Tsaparis still has the same viewpoint. My guess is he has altered his opinion of Cisco as a partner.

Then yesterday, I get an e-mail from HP Canada regarding Cisco’s Unified Computing initiative. Here are some of the highlights of the e-mail:

HP knows what enterprise customers require. For the past several decades, HP has been solving key IT “pain points” such as cutting costs, time-to-deployment, flexibility to adapt to the changing business environment, increased energy efficiency and how to manage both virtual and physical environments.

HP believes that customers will see many holes in Cisco’s Unified Datacenter strategy and blade server offering.

HP feels it was very appropriate that Cisco launch their server in a museum. The notion of Unified Compute, Network and Storage as a system was launched with the first blades more than five years ago. What Cisco paints to as “innovative” is actually reactionary and laggard.

This is not “unification” this is a change of control. There is considerable workload balancing, policy enforcement, compliance, replication, optimization and power management that happen at the server and the storage levels. Storage and server administrators are important to keeping applications up and running reliably at all times and to maintain access to critical data. “Checking in” with the network administrator every time a change needs to be made could have disastrous consequences.

Cisco’s vision is also one size fits all. Only HP’s infrastructure solutions scale from SMB, to mission-critical, to scale-out to cloud. Customers really need to be aware of the risks they are taking by buying into this limited scheme.

Cisco’s Hotel California …you can check out but you can never leave.

Cisco’s vision is built on their new protocol, VNTag, which is NOT compatible with current networking equipment (even Cisco’s existing core switches) or servers.

In order to get the benefits of Cisco’s virtual I/O, customers will need to do a forklift upgrade of their existing networking and server equipment. It all adds up to be the world’s most expensive virtual infrastructure.

As you can see there are a lot of highlights. Cisco executives and channel partners agree that this will bring some friction to the current HP/Cisco relationship. This is similar to the conflict over OCS by Cisco and Microsoft. In the end, both CEOs agreed, in a highly viewed video conference call, that they will compete when necessary and partner when necessary.

I think eventually HP and Cisco will learn to work with one another. But make no mistake: this relationship is strained right now. Cisco can point the finger at HP for positioning ProCurve as a competitor and HP will point to Unified Computing as the straw that broke the camels’ back.

Whatever the case may be, in the end both vendors are chasing the addressable market opportunity. With only 30 per cent of worldwide workload virtualized — and to many industry watchers that is a conservative number — this is a greenfield opportunity. By working together they only get to share in the pie.

What is unfortunate is that many channel partners in Canada will be caught in the middle of this tug of war.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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