Force 10 Moves In on Cisco-HP Split

Force 10 Networks is offering HP resellers an incentive program to start offering Force 10 networking gear instead of HP or Cisco products following Cisco's decision to drop HP as a valued reseller partner.

Networking gear vendor Force 10 Networks is looking to take advantage of the split between Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard.

Force 10 officials are kicking off a promotion designed to convince HP resellers to offer Force 10 networking products as alternatives to HP's ProCurve networking devices or, more importantly, Cisco's offerings.

The program, launched Feb. 24 and dubbed "C300 Play-to-Win," comes a week after Cisco announced that it would not renew its systems integrator contract with HP when it expires April 30. HP will no longer have access to proprietary information from Cisco, and that it will not be a certified reseller or service partner after that date.

The split was the latest crack in a relationship that had one point been very strong, with HP being a major reseller of Cisco's data center networking products. However, last year Cisco rolled out its UCS (Unified Computing System), an all-in-one offering that included not only Cisco's own networking products, but also its own blade servers. It was a move that put Cisco in a more adversarial position against HP, Dell and others.

HP has since started bulking up its networking capabilities, most significantly making a bid for 3Com for $2.7 billion. HP officials expect to close the deal in the second quarter.

Cisco officials have said that given that more competitive relationship, they no longer are comfortable sharing proprietary information.

Force 10 officials are looking to take advantage of the deteriorating relationship between HP and Cisco.

"We've seen ongoing channel disruption since Cisco introduced its Unified Computing System/blade server technology in 2009," Andrew Stewart, vice president of worldwide channels and sales operations at Force 10, said in a statement. "We see a fast-emerging opportunity to build relationships with partners that now need an alternative to Cisco."

Force 10 officials say their Ethernet switching and routing offerings offer command-line interfaces that are almost identical to those of Cisco's, that they're 80 percent more energy efficient and cost less.

The C300 Play-to-Win promotion is targeted at Cisco's installed base of its Catalyst 6509 portfolio, which has reached its end of life. Force 10 officials say they will sell their C-Series C300 switch at a low price against any new Cisco 6500 Series chassis.

The program, which runs through September, also gives resellers more financial incentives to sell Force 10 products.