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Cisco's Competitors Take Aim at Unified Data Center System

By J. Nicholas Hoover and Mike Fratto, InformationWeek,
March 18, 2009, 10:45 AM

With its Unified Computing System,
Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) laid out a vision to bring together computing power, networking, storage, and management into a single platform that includes integrated hardware and software from a variety of vendors.

It's a big, ambitious vision that puts Cisco in a brave new world of competition, one fraught with challenges and holes competitors are eager to pick at.

Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) -- which, along with
IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), is likely to be most affected by Cisco's announcement -- all but took credit for the vision Cisco laid out Monday. The company announced its ProCurve One system, a combined server and switch with its own partner ecosystem, in January. "What we heard pretty much validated where we're headed," Matt Zanner, HP ProCurve's worldwide director of data center solutions, said in an interview. "The whole idea of collapsing different infrastructures, that's a tenant HP's been claiming for quite some time."

HP and Cisco have a number of existing partnerships, as at various points HP has resold Cisco products and the two even integrated a Cisco switch with an HP blade server chassis. However, their competition has been ramping up significantly as HP's ProCurve networking arm has grown and now, in a possible death-blow to big partnerships, as Cisco moves into servers and pushes out HP in favor of BMC for management support. IBM and Cisco also have a strategic alliance and a number of jointly developed products.

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