Cisco-HP smackdown: Let's get ready to rumble

The Cisco-HP battle went into full effect in 2009 when the two former partners, who once sold complementary equipment into the same accounts, launched competitive products and cut off all ties.

Cisco and HP came to blows this year.

Networking trivia question of the year: What will Cisco and HP be best remembered for in 2009?

Answer: Throwing each other under the bus.

It's hard to say who took the first swing in the Cisco-HP battle, but it's clear that the companies' sweetheart relationship, in which both players cross-sold networking and data center equipment into the same accounts, is very much dead. Now the fight is on to control those customers from storage through the LAN.

Cisco threw its first punch with data center servers that directly rival the very components it had resold from HP. The servers were part of the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) -- an entire data center architecture that included virtualization management and a unified fabric.

But long before the March launch of Cisco's UCS, HP was brewing plans to dump Cisco as its networking partner. HP CEO Mark Hurd appointed longtime executive Marius Haas to head up the notoriously neglected ProCurve networking division. The company invested heavily in development, and soon incentives that were once offered to sales reps for selling Cisco equipment were pulled off the table. In January, amid rumors that Cisco would release its own data center servers, HP launched data center switches that would kill the need for Cisco's Nexus line. HP's 3Com acquisition was the final swing at Cisco.

2010 will be an all-out core war for the companies, but it's unclear whether either will take leadership in their new markets or simply maintain control of what they already had.

NEXT: Cisco says, "Yes we can ..."

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This was first published in December 2009

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