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HP slams Cisco for lack of network innovation

Must have got bored with fighting Oracle
Tue May 10 2011, 11:09

HARDWARE VENDOR HP has done a pretty good job of picking a fight with networking giant Cisco, as the firm launched its latest range of networking equipment.

HP took the lid off its Flexnetwork architecture, which it claims caters for just about every area of the market that's worth covering. As part of its Flexnetwork architecture, HP announced its A10500 line of core network switches that offer 208 10Gbit/s ports, as well as two new access layer E5400 and E8200 switches and an update to its Intelligent Management Center (IMC) software.

The latest kit from HP is part of the company's renewed push into the networking market following a very successful 2010. Last year HP spent $2.7bn to buy network gear outfit 3Com after severing its ties with industry leader Cisco. By now the gloves are off, with HP aggressively claiming that its latest kit beats Cisco's equipment into the ground.

Dave Donatelli, EVP and general manager of enterprise, servers, storage and networking at HP got proceedings underway by seemingly wanting to dish out the same treatment he afforded to Oracle. Talking at the Interop conference, Donatelli first identified Cisco as the firm to beat and then proceeded to rip into the industry and its widely perceived shepherd.

Referring to Cisco, Donatelli said, "The market suffered from a lack of innovation for a long period of time." He said that this lack of innovation had "held customers up from doing what they want with their businesses". If anyone failed to catch his drift he repeated that "innovation has been slow" and that "the industry has suffered from a lack of competition".

At this point HP had yet to reveal any new products, but that didn't stop Donateli from waxing lyrical about the financial results of HP's networking group. Then he got back on message, saying "networking hasn't been able to keep up with innovation in other areas such as servers". By the time Marius Haas, SVP and general manager of HP's networking group took the stage to announce HP's latest offerings, it was clear that we were in for another 30 minutes of Cisco bashing.

At the bottom of each slide, Haas compared HP's product against Cisco's corresponding unit, naturally highlighting better performance. For it's IMC software Haas made the bombastic claim that "IMC manages Cisco [equipment] better than Cisco" and later added that HP has "the safest pair of hands in the industry".

There was time for HP to talk about Cisco vendors wanting to jump ship and that HP will break up "a market dominated by one player". While HP's comments could apply to many of the network vendors out there, HP singled out Cisco as it works with other firms such as such as Avaya to provide various aspects of its networking portfolio.

If you thought that Donatelli's and Haas' comments were just throwaway jibes during the heat of a press conference, HP's press releases show that this was a well thought out offensive. One release said, "Single-vendor, proprietary approaches, such as Cisco's, lock in customers while driving up cost and complexity". There are numerous references to Cisco's kit being outperformed by HP's latest and greatest, but frankly that's pretty tame stuff compared to the rest of what was said.

Donatelli's and Haas' comments highlight just how much the relationship between Cisco and HP has deteriorated. A senior member of HP's PR team even told The INQUIRER that he was surprised at how aggressive HP was in going after Cisco.

There was a time when then HP CEO, Carly Fiorina was on the board of Cisco. However following this presentation, it's unlikely that Cisco CEO John Chambers will want to let anyone from HP into the building anytime soon. µ


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