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Brocade continues to exploit friction between Cisco and systems vendors

It’s debatable just how much Cisco’s move into the server market with its launch of the Unified Computing System (UCS) has truly soured the networking giant’s strategic alliances with IBM and Dell, but Brocade has wasted no time in exploiting whatever separation may arise as a result.

Cisco’s UCS strategy banks on the need for tight integration between servers, storage and networks in next-generation data centers, particularly those that use a unified fabric, such as converged Ethernet, to transport all forms of data center traffic on a single medium. Cisco see an opportunity here, believing that many enterprises will want to get all their data center equipment from a single vendor in order to build such a highly-integrated infrastructure.

Of course, as part of its plan to exploit this potential market, Cisco has introduced its own line of servers, putting it into direct competition with long time allies in the data center, such as Dell, HP and IBM.

Whatever rift that forms between Cisco and these server vendors is an opportunity for Cisco’s networking competitors.

In the year since the storage networking company Brocade bought Foundry Networks, it has been leveraging its existing partnerships with leading IT equipment vendors to expand the market for its newly acquired Ethernet switching business. Apparently vendors like IBM and Dell are only too eager to find an alternative networking partner.

Earlier this year IBM announced a major expansion to its OEM relationship with Brocade. Big Blue had been selling IBM-branded storage networking gear from Brocade for several years, but in the new deal it expanded that OEM relationship to include a broad range of former Foundry switches and routers.

And now yesterday Dell announced that it is expanding its own OEM relationship with Brocade, from a storage networking channel to a broad line of Brocade’s Ethernet products.

Dell also announced it would start reselling products from IT automation vendor Scalent Systems. This is all part of an “Efficient Enterprise” offering Dell plans to unload on the market toward the end of 2009. As a result of these new OEM deals, Dell can now offer enterprises servers, storage, networks and IT automation software in one deal, enabling enterprises to buy an integrated data center solution from one vendor. IBM is making a similar move with its OEM agreements and its consulting arm. HP is moving swiftly in this direction, too, but it has the advantage of possessing its own, rapidly growing network equipment division in ProCurve.

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