It's no secret that when it comes to servers, the number one rival target for Cisco is Hewlett-Packard. But as in most wars, it's unreasonable to expect that the other side is going to sit passively while continuing to be attacked.
In 2011, Marius Haas, senior vice president and general manager for HP Networking, says that after a year in which HP networking products saw a 50 percent growth in organic sales and a 227 percent growth when you factor in the acquisition of 3Com, HP will aggressively leverage the conversion of networking technologies it has internally developed alongside 3Com technologies along three key fronts.
The first front is pretty straightforward in that it heralds the intensification of an already pretty intense price war. Haas notes that financially, Cisco is pretty addicted to high margins on networking products that HP will be offering for 30 to 60 percent less.
The second front will focus on cost of ownership. Haas says the HP networking products are significantly easier to manage and maintain, which results in lower operational IT costs across the board. That advantage will be driven home further in 2011, says Haas, as HP moves to further integrate security management software from the Tipping Point unit that came to HP as part of the 3Com deal.
Finally, HP is taking a heterogeneous approach to creating a network fabric. HP, of course, would like customers to buy its integrated server offerings such as the HP BladeSystem Matrix. But Haas says that HP isn't going to try to force that issue so he expects to see HP networking gear deployed in network fabric that connects a whole range of servers together.
By pushing into the server space, Cisco has provided HP with an opportunity to engage customers on a range of networking issues that previously would have been more difficult to start. How that will turn out by the end of 2011 remains to be seen. The issue for both Cisco and HP is that wars of any kind usually never end exactly the way anybody first expected.