HP Data Centers Are 'Cisco-Free'

Five months after closing its deal for 3Com, HP is announcing that it has purged Cisco networking gear from all six of its data centers and is operating with only HP products.

The disintegrating relationship between Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems continued Sept. 27 when HP officials said they have eliminated Cisco core routers and switches from their six data centers.

Instead, those six facilities are running on HP networking gear from its ProCurve business and the technology acquired when HP bought 3Com for $2.7 billion in a deal that closed in April.

There apparently were several motives behind the move to purge Cisco gear from the data centers, including showing that HP networking products can be used to run large data centers, and that they can be deployed without having to shut down any operations in the process.

"This past April we said we'd be Cisco-free for core WAN routing and switching in our data centers, and we are. We did it ahead of schedule and are seeing performance even better than we expected," Ken Gray, vice president of infrastructure for HP's Global Information Technology unit, said in a statement. "Our engineers have done a great job proving it's possible to run a network for a company the size and scale of HP on our own products, and we did the migration without taking a data center offline."

In addition, it was another shot in the ongoing competition between HP and Cisco to provides full, converged data center solutions to enterprises. The strong relationship between the two began deteriorating last year, when Cisco moved to expand its presence in the data center beyond its networking roots through in-house innovation and partnerships with other vendors.

Cisco in May 2009 introduced its UCS (Unified Computing System), an all-in-one data center solution that includes Cisco's servers and networking technologies, as well as storage, virtualization and management software from the likes of EMC and VMware. The move brought Cisco into more direct competition with HP, as well as other vendors, including IBM and Dell.

HP officials answered later in the year when they announced their interest in buying 3Com. With the acquisition, HP is getting much-needed core data center switches that were missing from its ProCurve portfolio, expanded Ethernet switching capabilities, as well as 3Com's TippingPoint network security business. The data centers' all-HP networking infrastructure takes advantage of the 3Com and TippingPoint products.

Now HP officials are pushing to highlight the differences between what they can offer in networking and what Cisco can.

"When we talk to customers around the world, they're looking for a full networking portfolio provider with open architecture enabling an alternative to the proprietary protocols they've been locked into for decades," Randy Mott, executive vice president and CIO for HP, said in a statement. "We knew from the first evaluations of the 3Com technology that it would be an exceptional value for HP and HP IT."

HP has been using its six data centers-two each in Houston, Austin, Texas, and Atlanta-as a proving ground for its technologies. HP several years ago consolidated its 85 data centers worldwide into the six.

HP engineers installed several A-Series products into the data centers, including 20 A8812 routers, six A6616 routers, 18 A6604 routers, 16 A12508 switches and 12 modular A9505 switches. HP officials said the network supports more than 260 Gbs of WAN data traffic, including 120 Gbs of internet capacity-about four times the bandwidth of what the old network infrastructure could handle.

Among the operations its runs are HP's Internet Services and online transactions through the company's Website, they said.

The announcement comes a day before HP's annual analyst day, and at a time of transition, as the company seeks a new CEO to replace Mark Hurd, who resigned under pressure in August and has since been hired as co-president at Oracle. Reports circulated earlier this month that HP was looking at internal candidates for Hurd's replacement, and that officials could announce a decision soon.

HP also is gearing up for its annual HP IT Forum, this year in Atlanta Nov. 18-19. Executives will be at the event to talk about what they're doing in the data centers, and will be hosting several breakout sessions for customers.