It shouldn't come as a surprise that Cisco is bagging HP as a channel partner, but I think there are two truths to remember when confronted by breathless headlines proclaiming, "Fights to the Death!" and significant blows to one or the other's business plan.
The first is that, for most buyers at least, life will go on pretty much as normal. The field of mixed Cisco/HP environments is too broad for either company to start interfering with the other's platform. At worst, it means HP won't have access Cisco's development strategies and product roadmaps, but the two will still collaborate on integration efforts and are said to be already working on a new agreement to cover things like SLA support. In short, they are still too important to each other to open a blood feud.
The second is that as far as delivering a fully unified computing platform, HP looks to be in much better shape than Cisco at the moment. Cisco made a splash last year by unveiling its own blade server as part of the UCS platform, but that product is barely out of the early adopter stage and has a long way to go before it challenges the likes of HP for data center loyalty.
While Cisco struggles to break into the server market, HP is already comfortable with all three branches of data center hardware -- servers, storage and switching. With its own ProCurve line (which, by the way, begs the question: Who encroached on whose market first?), plus the almost-completed 3Com acquisition and now a new deal with QLogic for 8 G Fibre Channel switching, it seems that the company has much less need for Cisco than the other way around.
But please don't misunderstand me: This is not a mistake on Cisco's part by any means. The company has made no bones about the fact that it wants to provide a full data center portfolio to compete with the likes of HP, IBM and Oracle, so at some point it has to clear out the inner circle if it intends to keep its plans close to the vest.
The only thing Cisco has to remember is that it's lonely being out on your own. Success or failure resides solely on your ability to innovate better than your competitors. Cisco certainly has the chops to do that -- now it needs to master the execution.