Software // Information Management
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4/28/2009
09:51 AM
Mike Fratto
Mike Fratto
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IBM to OEM Brocade Switches. It's IBM vs HP.

IBM and Brocade jointly announced that Big Blue will be selling Brocade network switches branded as IBM Ethernet switches. The agreement extends the existing IBM/Brocade OEM deal for SAN equipment. A lot of people will see this as a reaction to Cisco's UCS launch, but according to IBM, nothing is further from the truth. I think it pits IBM against HP.

IBM and Brocade jointly announced that Big Blue will be selling Brocade network switches branded as IBM Ethernet switches. The agreement extends the existing IBM/Brocade OEM deal for SAN equipment. A lot of people will see this as a reaction to Cisco's UCS launch, but according to IBM, nothing is further from the truth. I think it pits IBM against HP.From the outside, this is a straight up OEM deal where IBM can now sell it's own equipment sporting the IBM logo and both vendors are making politically correct statements. Brocade get's access to IBM sales channel for data networking. Brocade expects that in addition to the current storage and data networking gear under the OEM agreement, the Netiron MLX, CES 2000, GS, adn SuperX family of swtiches and routers, IBM will adopt other products like Brocade's 8000 FCoE switch in the future. IBM says the expanded OEM agreement (IBM OEM's Brocades SAN director and DCX switches) gives IBM another choice to offer its customers in addition to reselling Cisco's networking equipment. IBM is not saying the OEM deal is a reaction to Cisco Unified Computing launch. Charlie Andrews, Director of Dynamic Infrastructure from IBM stated "Like every cooperative/competitive relationship, we will, at some point, come into conflict. It shouldn't be a detriment to our customers. IBM will continue to be a significant reseller of Cisco equipment."

Nothing revolutionary there. IBM still needs to resell, manage, and support Cisco equipment because they are such a large reseller and Cisco is the market leader in network infrastructure. No one, including IBM, thinks that enterprises are going to rush out to replace their existing network with IBM's new network equipment. Just like no one, including Cisco, thinks enterprises are going to rip and replace their iSeries and zSeries servers with Cisco's Unified Computing System. So why the OEM deal with Brocade and not Cisco?

IBM's Dynamic Infrastructure is their vision of the future data center-a data center heavily reliant on virtualization and automation from the hardware to the application-that breaks down technology silos which currently leave current data centers inflexible. Virtualization requires flexibility to be agile. In computing, that means a high degree of automation. For this to work for IBM, they want equipment that is standards based to ease integration requirements and they'd like influence over the direction of product development. Those are two key elements Andrews reiterated during an interview.

The fight with HP

IBM's Dynamic Infrastructure looks an awful lot like HP's Adaptive Infrastructure. Both initiatives tie computing and networking together, focuses on virtualization and automation, leverages their own product lines as well as those of their partners, and relies heavily on their extensive organizational, business, and technical consulting arm. The breadth of offerings by either IBM and HP eclipses anything Cisco currently has.

Abstracting the hardware from the application-the ultimate vision of cloud-like computing-relegates hardware vendors to plumbers and carpenters. IBM's data center of the future, the foundations of their Dynamic Infrastructure, relies on four legs. 1) Network management across all platforms including physical and virtual servers, networking, storage allows IT to move, add, change, remove services and the dependencies relatively simply and reliably. 2) Computing and network hardware support, whether IBM's OEM switches or resold products from Cisco or Juniper that is standards based and supported by the management system. 3) Security both technical and organizational, also from Tivoli and supported by other acquisitions such as ISS. The specific elements of the first three legs are replaceable. A switch, is a switch, is a switch. The most critical element is expertise.

IBM's product portfolio has changed throughout the years, but they have been building design expertise through their consulting arm across a variety of market spaces and up and down the stack. HP is also building a product portfolio and partnership program across networking, security, and management but expertise is something HP has been building and acquiring, most recently EDS, over the years. Being able to walk into a company bringing to bear years of experience in designing and building complex business system from a variety of products for a variety of customers gives the IBM and HP a perspective that Cisco currently doesn't match. That's why the fight for the data center is IBM vs HP.

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