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IBM's Big Partnership Play

IBM announced it is expanding its OEM relationship by private labeling Brocade's 8000 FCoE switch and Junipers EX and MX series switches and router as IBM brands. IBM has also reached a reseller agreement with Cisco to sell the Nexus 5000 switch.  Why all three? The four-part harmony led by IBM is choice, choice, choice. I think the reality is that IBM wants to expand it Dynamic Datacenter initiative which Brocade and Juniper are aligning themselves with at IBM's direction and Cisco is simply a must have resell.

Brocade's 8000 1U top-of-rack FCoE switch that sports 24 10Gbps CEE switch ports to interconnect servers and the rest of the network and 8 8Gbps Fibre Channel ports to interconnect to a SAN. The CEE ports can be trunked to aggregate capacity. Like most FCoE devices, the 8000 translates FCoE frames between the switch and server to FC for the SAN. IBM is also OEMing Brocades Converged Network Adapters (CNA) for servers. OEMing Brocades 8000 make sense for IBM by adding an FCoE product to their portfolio.

IBM is also reselling Cisco Nexus 5000 switches that also support FCoE, CEE, and 10GB Ethernet. The Nexus 5010 sports 20 10Gb SFP+ ports and 8 Fibre Channel ports and is similar to the Brocade 8000 . The Nexus 5020 has 40 10Gb ports and Fibre Channel is through an expansion module.

IBM is also extending its OEM of Junipers EX 4200 and 8200 edge and core switch respectively as well as Junipers MX series routers. Juniper hasn't yet jumped on the FCoE and CEE band wagon stating that the economics aren't right for FCoE. With T11  finalizing FCoE in June, we should start seeing products rolling soon but Juniper's Mike Banic, Vice President of Marketing, Ethernet Platforms Business Group, doesn't expect to see FCoE demand grow until mid 2010.  

Granted FCoE  and CEE are still relatively new, but it appears Juniper is late to the game. Their EX 4200 that IBM is OEMing is a gigabit switch with 2 10GB uplink ports and the core switch, the EX8200 only support 64 10GB ports per EX8208 or 128 10GB ports for the EX8216. Juniper needs to provide 10Gb CEE switches to remain competitive against the likes of Cisco and Brocade. Of course, Juniper is notoriously close lipped about product directions, so I'd bet they are working on 10Gb Ethernet top of rack/end or row switches for sometime in 2010, or sooner.

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