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HP to sell Cisco storage switches

HP follows IBM's lead by becoming the second in what is likely to be a long line of storage vendors that will resell Cisco's MDS family of storage switches. HP also announced upgrades to its entry-level SAN array, the MSA 1000.

When the top networking company in the world turns its talents toward storage switches, the hardware vendors take notice.

For the second time in as many weeks, Cisco Systems Inc. has signed a reseller for its much-heralded family of storage switches. Hewlett-Packard Co. announced Wednesday that it had signed a preliminary agreement with Cisco to resell its line of MDS fabric switches.

Last week, IBM Corp. made public its plans to resell Cisco's MDS 9000 storage switching product family.

HP has been selling Cisco networking products for a long time, but "this is the first time HP will offer their storage networking products," said Mark Nagaitis, director of product marketing for HP's infrastructure and NAS division. He said HP's existing OEM relationships with McData Corp. and Brocade Communications Systems Inc. will remain intact.

"HP OEMs its StorageWorks SAN products of equivalent functionality from McData and Brocade. We will offer the Cisco switches as a third-party alternative and let customer preference dictate choice," Nagaitis said.

IBM announced its arrangement with Cisco on Jan. 7. Under the terms of that agreement, IBM and its partners will offer customers Cisco's MDS 9000 family of products, beginning with the Cisco MDS 9509 Multilayer Director and Cisco MDS 9216 Multilayer Fabric Switch, as well as associated modules, Cisco said. IBM expects to finish interoperability qualification of these products and offer them to customers by the end of the first quarter of 2003.

Most analysts agree that Cisco's 8-, 16- and 32-port switches pose a threat to competing products from Brocade, at least on a technical level. Cisco's director-class products, which take aim at McData's market share, are being called "huge."

Nancy Marrone, senior analyst with Enterprise Storage Group Inc., Milford, Mass., said for the time being, Brocade and McData should be concerned, but they probably don't yet need to be at panic stage.

"Both Brocade and McData have [a] significant installed base, and it will be semi-difficult to get customers to move to Cisco," she said. "However, if HP is like IBM, they will be targeting customers that are moving to SANs and want to have a lot of the same, familiar management functionality in the [Fibre Channel] switch as they do in their IP switch."

Marrone said McData and Brocade need to worry about the new "IP-minded" SAN market business that could go to Cisco. But Brocade and McData have introduced a road map for offering intelligent switching platforms and, if they deliver, they should be able to compete with Cisco on that front.

"Brocade has Rhapsody, and if [Cisco is] smart they will gather as many potential OEMs and resellers for that solution well before the integration of the Brocade and Rhapsody solutions is complete," Marrone said.

Another player in the Fibre Channel switch market, Inrange Technologies Corp., said Cisco's entry into storage was expected and that it validates the market.

"The fact that they are offering a director-class switch validates our commitment to the high-end market," said Dale Lafferty, vice president of marketing and alliances for Inrange.

IBM also resells switches from Inrange, but Lafferty said its relationship with Big Blue won't be bothered by its plans to sell Cisco switches. "IBM continues to be our largest customer, and the relationship is strong," Lafferty said. "In fact, at this very moment, IBM and Inrange are taking part in one another's 2003 kick-off meetings and are planning joint programs for the coming year."

In addition to IBM and HP, Cisco has begun interoperability work with Adaptec Inc., Advanced Digital Information Corp., BMC Software Inc., EMC Corp., Emulex Corp., Hitachi Data Systems Corp., JNI Corp., Netreon Inc., QLogic Corp., StorageNetworks Inc. and Veritas Software Corp.

The reselling deal with Cisco was not the only item on HP's agenda this week. The company also announced enhancements to the HP StorageWorks Modular SAN Array 1000, which is the company's low-end SAN array, formerly sold by Compaq.

The MSA1000 is a modular, entry-level Fibre Channel storage array designed for moving from direct-attached storage to a SAN.

The array is in its second year of availability and now supports multi-cluster servers. HP has doubled the maximum capacity of the MSA 1000 to 6T bytes. Additionally, the company claims to have boosted the product's performance by up to 80% compared with than the previous version with larger, faster drives and enhanced firmware. A 3-port embedded hub option has also found its way into the MSA 1000 as a space-saver in SAN and clustered environments.

The MSA 1000 allows customers to migrate drives, including the associated data, directly out of an HP ProLiant environment to the MSA1000, HP said. Let us know what you think about the story. E-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer


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