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HP purges Cisco gear from data centers

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Hewlett-Packard announced this morning - and will no doubt be bragging tomorrow to Wall Street - that it no longer has Cisco Systems' core switches and routers in its own data centers and is now using its own 3Com and ProCurve products.

The latest shots in the ongoing server-networking war between HP and Cisco came ahead of HP's financial analyst meeting tomorrow and likely ahead of the appointment of a new president, CEO, and chairman for the IT giant.

HP has been in the switching business since founding its networking division in 1979 within its Data Systems Division in 1979, so in a sense, Cisco started it by founding itself in 1984. But Cisco stuck to the Internet router space and HP was doing networking primarily between systems and printers, so the two did not meet head-on in the market until they both wanted to sell switches in data centers in the 1990s.

The détente between HP and Cisco started breaking down mightily when the latter smashed its way into the server business in March 2009 with the launch of the "California" Unified Computing System blade servers and their integrated and converged 10 Gigabit Ethernet networking for servers and storage. It continued to expand last year with rack-based servers that are the bread and butter of HP. In November 2009, HP acquired Ethernet commercializer 3Com for $2.7bn, bolstering its ProCurve product line and declaring war right back to Cisco. By February of this year, the gloves had come off and Cisco dropped HP from its certified partner program, cutting the server maker out of Cisco's switch product roadmaps and pricing incentives.

Back in April, HP was promising to gut its "six-pack" of data centers of all Cisco gear and replace it with its own ProCurve and 3Com products. HP has been transforming its own IT operations for several years, and in December 2008 had put some 85 global data centers through the cider press, compressing them down to a six pack of data centers running in Houston and Austin, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia. (Each site has two data centers, which are mirrored across the three different geographies for high availability and resilience.)

"This past April we said we’d be Cisco-free for core WAN routing and switching in our data centers, and we are. We did it ahead of schedule and are seeing performance even better than we expected," explained Ken Gray, vice president of infrastructure in the global information technology department at HP, who added that the Cisco switches were all replaced without taking the data center offline.

The "upgrade" of switching and routing involved replacing 30 circuits between the six data centers, installing twenty A8812 routers, six A6616 routers, eighteen A6604 routers, sixteen A12508 switches, and a dozen A9505 modular switches. The gear sports 260 Gb/sec of wide area network capacity between the data centers and supports 120 Gb/sec of aggregate Internet capacity for employees and for processing transactions from the HP online store.

HP still has to purge the non-HP edge switches from its data centers and myriad offices. No word on when that might be done.

All of HP's switches and routers are now sold under the HP Networking brand, which was introduced in April. The A Series switches and routers are data center-class products that come from 3Com, while the E Series switches come from the HP ProCurve line and are aimed at midrange shops. The S Series security appliances coming from 3Com subsidiary Tipping Point, and the V Series products also come from 3Com and are aimed at SMBs. ®

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