With the completion of its newest data center and the integration of their acquisition of 3Com, HP feels that they are ready to take on Cisco for the control of the data center networking infrastructure. In what is clearly a well -calculated first blow against Cisco, Ken Gray, vice president, Infrastructure, Global Information Technology Organization, HP, said "We're Cisco-free in this data center and have a plan to extend this freedom across all of our internal IT data centers next year."
That's all well and good, and given that HP has just acquired a direct competitor to Cisco, not unexpected, but what does it really mean to customers? On the plus side, HP will be running its own internal networks using its own hardware, which is always a good thing for customers when vendors are as dependent on their products as potential customers may be. But on the other hand I've yet to pick up the phone and hear a client complaining that they were being forced to use Cisco hardware.
Regardless, if HP plans on maintaining a very public and aggressive campaign against Cisco and their protocols you are going to begin to hear more public rumblings; the trick, for HP, is if they can get other vendors, or customers, to begin piling on. But until that happens, Cisco is still comfortably ensconced at the top of the hill, looking down on all the competitors, and their uphill fight. Though I do sometimes get the impression that Cisco's recent buying spree indicates a loss of focus on their core networking market and therefore a potential opportunity for competitors.
But while this very public battle will be fought, a closer look at the trenches will show the datacenter customer that there are a number of upstarts, with very narrowly targeted products, that potentially do a much better job of solving pressing datacenter networking issues. Companies like Arista Networks are building switches with very high performance, good energy efficiency, and cost effective densities that are targeted at switching within the datacenter and optimized for dealing with cloud and virtualized business models.
While these switches aren't designed to replace the top-of-the-line routing networks that Cisco dominates, they provide an effective foothold for these smaller, narrowly targeted vendors, in the datacenter. I must admit, however, that the cynic in me looks at these smaller companies and just wonders if their exit strategy is to get Cisco to throw some of that buy-out money in their direction. Can HP get vendors and customers to get on a Cisco-free diet? It seems unlikely, but it will at least make a splash for HP as they market their 3Com acquisition.