HP vs. Cisco: Polar Opposites in Data Center Strategies

News Analysis: Cisco and Hewlett-Packard are coming at the next-generation data center with opposite strategies: Cisco wants to partner with the best available suppliers, and HP wants to be the one-stop shop for any enterprise. The general direction of all of this is toward cloud computing, and the question is who will become the go-to suppliers of new systems needed to run Internet-delivered services as older data centers get replaced during the next several years.

2010 is shaping up to be the Year of Unified Computing System Wars, and Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard have emerged as two of the main combatants in these skirmishes.

IBM, naturally, would be the other big one. But outside of general information about its Blue Cloud initiative and partnership opportunities to create next-generation data centers, we have yet to hear a clear strategy from IT's biggest kahuna on the unified computing topic.
Smaller upstarts, such as Liquid Computing, are also coming into the picture. Liquid is collaborating with Intel to produce the new Liquid Elements unified computing software package that will be gaining attention soon.
The general direction of all of this is toward cloud computing, and the question is: Who will become the go-to suppliers of new systems needed to run Internet-delivered services as older data centers get replaced during the next several years?
The stakes are high; these new centers are going to cost hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars apiece. Branding and customer loyalities loom large in these market battles.
Cisco and HP are earning most of the data center headlines lately. Both companies have come out in 2009 with new-generation data center innards that combine computing power, networking, storage, and data security and management in ever-shrinking physical hardware. This is supposed to put much more functionality into far fewer boxes, resulting in less power drawn from the wall, fewer square feet to buy and cool, and less staff time required to handle it all.
No need for separate servers to do partitioning, encryption, networking, e-mail-and so on-anymore. It's all very politically, environmentally and fiscally correct.
Cisco introduced its Unified Computing System back on March 16. It consists of a new data center architecture, a new Cisco-designed server, and a new set of management software and services based on Intel's powerful quad-core Nehalem Xeon processors.
HP revealed its Converged Infrastructure strategy Nov. 4, one day after Cisco, storage giant EMC and virtualization technology vendor VMware refined their UCS agreement and announced a tighter partnership to develop and market preintegrated computing systems called vBlocks.
HP's "converged" system is built of its own C-class blade servers, StorageWorks arrays, and in-house networking and data management software.
The HP strategy combines hardware, software and services to create an infrastructure that brings together computing, storage, networking and management resources into a single pool designed to help increase businesses' agility and efficiency and drive down operation and maintenance costs in the data center.
Just like Cisco's system.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he...