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Switches: Who's On First?

In the Abbott-and-Costello-like conflict currently raging between HP and Cisco, both vendors are claiming victory in the enterprise switch market, part of the $30 billion enterprise network market. As the growing propaganda broadsides include market research that can support both camps, and disputed product comparisons that feature new and not-yet-shipping products, Network Computing will try and bring a little clarity to the situation.

The most recent skirmish began a month ago, when HP launched a preemptive strike just prior to Cisco's annual customer event. Using market data from Dell'Oro Group, HP reported that it gained 2.5 percentage points for layer 2/layer 3 Ethernet switching revenue market share in the first quarter of 2011, while Cisco’s share fell 5.8 points. HP also gained 2.5 percentage points in router and 2.2 points in wireless local area network (WLAN) revenue market share, while Cisco’s share declined by 3.1 points in router and 0.4 points in WLAN.

“Customers are telling us that there is a significant sense of urgency to eliminate their inflexible, complex and expensive networks,” said Mike Banic, vice president, Global Marketing, Networking, HP, in a press release. This statement was expanded to 'tired of complex, inflexible, hard to manage and expensive Cisco networks' in an email to Network Computing.

The accompanying blog from HP's Mary Gabra, manager, market and competitive intelligence, was more direct about their triumphs at Cisco's expense. 'Not too long ago, the networking market was known to be a market that had Cisco and the seven dwarfs. Now, that landscape has changed! One of the dwarfs grew up and broke the ceiling.' She goes on to note that HP has outperformed the market in switching, routing and WLAN categories since the first quarter of 2009 and 'Cisco is living in denial'.

The next shot was fired by Cisco a day later when it said that, in a head-to-head competition with HP's comparable Catalyst 6500 switch (the HP 9500), customers would have to pay three times the price for one third the performance. The company says the latest version of its venerable line of switches features the Supervisor Engine 2T (Sup-2T), a 2-terabit card that unlocks 80 gigabits per second per slot, 10-gigabit and 10-Gigabit Ethernet line cards, IPv4 and IPv6 support from the switch's hardware platform, network virtualization capabilities, L4-7 integrated services modules and application performance and visibility monitoring through a revamped NetFlow, and is 40Gb-ready.

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