This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala's blog.

Despite the on going feud between Cisco and HP, the two IT giants put aside their difference and jointly collaborated to co-engineer a Cisco Fabric Extender (FEX) blade that will be the network inside an HP BladeSystem chassis.

There are certain expressions we use in life to describe situations that are so improbable that the issue we are talking about will likely never happen. Expressions such as “when Hell freezes over” and “when pigs fly” are a couple of them. In tech, we could have used the expression “When HP and Cisco work together” as our own version of this as the two companies have become bitter, mortal enemies. The Procurve group at HP spends most of its airtime describing why Cisco is too expensive. In fact, I was at an HP customer event a few months back (not as an analyst, I went with a few IT people I knew) and the HP presenters spent 90% of the time just bashing Cisco instead of talking about their own products.

Conversely, Cisco has recently taken to their own mud slinging with Rob Lloyd doing a live video talking about the risks of the “good enough vendor”. Rob’s video actually reminded me the old Bell Helmet ad that stated “if you have a $10 head then where a $10 helmet”. It drives the point home for Cisco and they’re pushing that message as hard as they can now.

Well, the unthinkable has happened, so watch out for flying pigs or an ice patch that leads you down under (Hell, not Australia) because Cisco and HP have collaborated together. I’m now expecting the Red Sox to celebrate the Yankees division title and for the NBA players to decide money and greed won’t hold up the NBA season (HA, that’s NEVER going to happen).

Late last week Cisco announced the Nexus B22 FEX Blade for 3rd party blade servers and broadcast that HP would be the first partner that utilizes the product in its BladeSystem chassis. This is actually a great move for customers. Despite the strongest desires from both companies to kick each other out of the data center, there are thousands of companies that use HP servers and Cisco networking so it’s good to see the two take the gloves off and shake hands for the benefit of joint customers. It is worth noting that this deal appears to be driven by the server group at HP not the network team so the response from Procurve should be interesting.

How it occurred doesn’t matter though and I hope we see more of the network and server vendors collaborating on integrated products. The current crop of switches found in blade chassis today are gigabit speeds and have a very basic feature sets. As data centers networks play a bigger role in data center evolution, its important to extend the network all the way to the blade chassis and who knows how to build high speed, low latency network infrastructure better than network vendors? Certainly not server vendors.

The economics of what Cisco and HP are doing together are significant as well. Server managers can now use a single 10 Gig-E connection instead of multiple bonded 1 Gig connections. This reduces cost by cutting the number of NICs but also significantly reduces cabling, optics, power, cooling, etc. I’ve talked to a few customers about this and a company that chooses this option could save up to 50% in capital costs alone.

There are additional benefits as well since organizations can have a strong foundation for FCoE and, if a fabric is on the roadmap, be able to extend it past the top of rack tier all the way to the blade chassis.

So, as odd as this announcement may seem to industry watchers, kudos to both Cisco and HP for doing what’s best for customers and not just trying to push their own agenda forward.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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