Cisco, HP ratchet up data centre battle

Data centre showdown as each company invades the other's territory.

Cisco and HP last week armed themselves for an impending battle in the data center in which each company will invade the other's turf.

HP brought its ProCurve networking arm into the data center fray by unveiling the first ProCurve switches optimized for data center duty. The company also rolled out a server module for existing switches that allows users to begin integrating and consolidating switching and application processing.

Cisco, meanwhile, laid the groundwork for an imminent blade server launch with additions to the Nexus switching line and enhancements to its Catalyst products, including software designed to allow the switches to control the energy consumption of attached devices. Cisco is expected to launch its "California" blade server mid-year, and the switching upgrades are designed to help support that effort.

HP's ProCurve launch is also in anticipation of the Cisco blade server, which will encroach on HP's longtime data center territory. So HP's new switches are viewed as a pre-emptive strike into the heart of Cisco's data center stronghold.

"This is clearly a demonstration of HP really taking ProCurve in the enterprise and leveraging other HP strengths," says Jon Oltsik, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. "HP's certainly in the data center business and for the first time ever they're talking about handling all communications, too. HP is looking at where it can succeed in the enterprise networking market and picking its battles strategically."

Its weapons for this battle include a new switch line optimized for top-of-rack data-center switching applications. The 6600 line includes five Gigabit and 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches, all in 1RU form factors but in a variety of configurations.

Indiana University is putting the 6600 through its paces in preparation for building a new data center. It currently has two, which support about 1,700 servers.

"As we started looking at our requirements, it made a lot of sense for us to move from and end-of-rack switching model to a top-of-rack switching model," says Matt Davy, chief network architect for the university. "The 6600 has a lot of interesting features for top-of-rack."

Indiana University is also evaluating Cisco Nexus 5000s for this application. The school is implementing a top-of-rack architecture to lower the cost of increasing gigabit densities that server virtualization presents, as well as an eventual migration to 10G Ethernet, Davy says.

"Doing 10G at top-of-rack is definitely more cost effective because of the SFP+ direct attached cables reducing your connection cost to the servers," he says.

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