Cisco and HP Collaborate for Fabric Extender

Cisco and HP might be networking rivals, but that isn't stopping them from collaborating in the datacenter.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Oct 17, 2011
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Cisco and HP used to be close partners. That all changed when Cisco introduced their own server platform and HP acquired 3com to aggressively go after the networking market.

While the two companies today are rivals, they have now come together for a product collaboration that will serve to benefit their joint customers. The new product is the Cisco Nexus B22 Fabric Extender (FEX) for HP BladeSystem. The FEX enables HP users to get the benefits of Cisco's Unified Fabric.

"These blades act like line cards that extend the value and power of the Nexus 5000 top of rack switch within the customers’ existing HP blade system," Soni Jiandani, SVP of Server, Access and Virtualization Technology Group at Cisco told InternetNews.com.

The Nexus 5000 is a switching family that Cisco first debuted in 2008 as a way to deliver a converged Ethernet fabric. Cisco has been talking about blade versions of the Nexus since at least 2009, with the Nexus 4000.

Jiandani noted that the Nexus B22 FEX is part of a product family that enables operational simplicity at scale, with a single point of management and policy enforcement on the access switch across more than 1000, 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports. Jiandani added that the technology behind this solution is based on the emerging standard, IEEE 802.1BR, (Bridge Port Extension).

Dayna Fried, Worldwide Public Relations at HP explained to InternetNews.com that the Nexus FEX is designed to connect up to 16 HP blade servers to a Cisco Nexus series switch.

"Customers using this module will be able to take advantage of Cisco networking by connecting HP BladeSystem, something they have not been able to do previously," Fried said. "This means more choices and investment protection for our joint data center customers."

As to how Cisco and HP came together for the new solution, Jiandani said that both HP and Cisco recognized that they have a large base of joint customers. The new solution came about from their customers demanding to leverage their existing HP servers and enclosures with Cisco’s networking infrastructure.

While HP and Cisco are currently not on the best of terms, the two companies have worked together in the past to develop blade networking products extending back to 2004.

"These include Ethernet switches such as the Catalyst 3020 and 3120 series and the MDS9124 Fabric Switches and the Cisco Nexus B22 FEX for HP BladeSystem is just the latest offering that HP offers its customers," Jiandani said

While Cisco and HP have collaborated before, HP has its own networking portfolio now which could potentially be seen as being competitive with the Nexus. HP's Fried commented that the Cisco Fabric Extender for HP BladeSystem was not designed to compete with either company’s offerings.

"Its purpose is to allow our joint customers the freedom to mix HP server blades with Cisco networking," Fried said. "Customers are free to evaluate the merits of other HP and Cisco offerings and determine the best products for their needs."

"There is no change to either company’s products or services," Fried added. "Both HP and Cisco will continue to individually develop our existing networking and server portfolios in an effort to provide our customers with new and innovative features."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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