HP resells QLogic edge switches; is Cisco relationship cooling?

Cisco is still an HP partner, but some say tensions between the firms may be growing

Hewlett-Packard Co. today disclosed that it has begun selling stackable QLogic Corp.-developed 8Gbit/sec Fibre Channel switches that are targeted for use at remote offices and corporate departments.

The QLogic switches have 20 8Gbit/sec Fibre Channel ports and can be stacked in groups of up to six to create a high-end offering with 120 8Gbit/sec Fibre Channel ports along with up to 24 20Gbit/sec interswitch link ports.

At least one industry observer believes that HP's decision to sign a deal with QLogic indicates that tensions are rising between HP and another key partner, Cisco Systems Inc. Dave Vellante, co-founder and principal contributor to Wikibon.org, an online, Wiki-based community of storage practitioners, consultants and researchers, notes that Cisco recently started competing with systems vendors like HP by coming out with its own server offering.

"HP is taking the high road saying whatever the customer wants they'll deliver. My take is HP is really saying 'screw you, Cisco' behind closed doors," Vellante said.

Additionally, one industry source said that HP's StorageWorks division may have eliminated Cisco Relationship Manager positions. Charles Vallhonrat, product marketing manager for HP's StorageWorks Division, said he did not know if that was true.

"We have a long history of partnering. We've had QLogic switches in the product line for a couple years now. This is adding additional capabilities to our portfolio," Vallhonrat said. "We do still partner with Brocade and Cisco."

Rumors are also circulating on the Web that Cisco no longer counts HP as a certified reseller partner.

Keith Goodwin, senior vice president of Cisco's Worldwide Partner Organization, said in a Webcast that Cisco will not renew its systems integrator contract with HP when it expires on April 30, meaning HP will no longer be a certified channel or global service alliance partner.

"We're taking this action to be transparent to both partners and customers. We will compete with HP for future business," Goodwin said.

Goodwin said Cisco will honor HP customer service contracts their duration and the company will continue to work with HP "where our customers expect it and where it makes sense for our business."

"This whole thing is very interesting to me because Cisco has grown so large and dominant that it is able to dictate certain terms, but HP is such a powerhouse [that] they're saying - you know what, we're HP and we don't need to bow to anyone," Vellante said.

HP said today it is now reselling QLogic's 5800V and 5802V Series 8Gbit/sec FC switches, which it is branding HP StorageWorks SN6000 Stackable 8Gb FC Switches, as part of its scalable SAN solutions.

The switches can be used with HP server and storage products like HP BladeSystem Virtual Connect, HP StorageWorks Modular Smart Array (MSA) and HP StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) systems.

The SN6000 series switches have dedicated 10Gbit/sec interlink switch ports for connecting additional switches and increasing port counts. The 10Gbit/sec port can also be upgraded to 20Gbit/sec.

HP, which also resells switches from Brocade Communications Systems Inc., does not offer Cisco 8Gbit/sec Fibre Channel switches. The computer maker does resell Cisco 4Gbit/sec Fibre Channel switches, including a 24-port non-stackable switch (model 9124) and a 32-port stackable version (model 9134), as part of its C-Series switch line.

"Although Cisco obviously has customers who have responded to the value of stacking, their stacking implementation is far less robust than the SN6000," said QLogic spokesman, Steve Zivanic.

Additionally, Vallhonrat said HP's own Simple SAN Connection Manager software allows storage administrators to manage their HP StorageWorks SN6000 switches, along with host servers and StorageWorks StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array and Modular Smart Array storage systems all through a single interface.

The StorageWorks SN6000 switches will retail for $10,500 with a single power supply and $13,500 with a dual power supply.

"I think the Fibre Channel switch business needs more competition and because Cisco's at war with so many server vendors, a third supplier like QLogic becomes more viable," Vallente said. "I think this gives QLogic credibility in a market where they don't have a footprint whatsoever."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, send e-mail to lmearian@computerworld.com or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed .

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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