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IBM To OEM Brocade Switches

The move is expected to realign the relationship between IBM and Cisco as Cisco moves into the server business with its Unified Computing System strategy.

IP networking server

Brocade on Tuesday said that IBM will rebrand and sell its networking routers and switches through IBM's direct and indirect sales forces.

The line includes nearly all the products Brocade got when it acquired Foundry Networks for $2.6 billion in December.

IBM already resells Brocade's storage networking line of products and OEMs IP networking products from Brocade for its blade server line.

The OEM deal to sell Brocade's IP networking gear is part of IBM's broader messaging about its virtual data center initiative, said Ian Whiting, senior vice president of worldwide sales at Brocade.

IBM got out of the networking business about 10 years ago when it sold that part of the business to Cisco, Whiting said. "Now IBM is announcing it is getting back into networking with almost all of Brocade's portfolio," he said.

Whiting said the deal is not an exclusive arrangement with IBM, as IBM's strategy has been to offer customers a choice of products. However, he said, it does represent a change in the relationship between IBM and Cisco now that Cisco is moving into the server market.

Cisco in March unveiled its Unified Computing System strategy, which seeks to combine compute, storage, virtualization and networking capabilities in an integrated package that the company said will make data centers more flexible, efficient and cost-effective.

"IBM's OEMing an entire networking line from one of Cisco's competitors tells you there is some kind of realignment going on," Whiting said.

The expanded relationship between IBM and Brocade should be a positive one for IBM and the channel, said David Stone, vice president of business development at Solutions-II, a Littleton, Colo.-based solution provider and IBM partner.

"This will make the relationship between them stronger to better compete against Cisco," Stone said.

With the OEM relationship, IBM will be investing more in the Brocade relationship than it has so far, Stone said. "They have to do something to compete," he said. "And I am sure they have taken the Cisco UCS move seriously."

Mitch Kleinman, president of Ryjac Computer Solutions, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider and IBM partner, called the move a natural evolution for IBM.

Kleinman said he is not yet sure how much of an impact the new OEM relationship will have. "Cisco's pretty much the market de facto now for networking," he said. "It's like my customers saying, 'All of a sudden I'm going to buy Cisco servers.' I don't see that happening any time soon."

The agreement does seem to show that vendors are moving to expand their offerings to take as much of a customer's business as possible, Kleinman said.

He cited Cisco's introduction of its UCS strategy and Oracle's pending acquisition of Sun Microsystems as examples of that trend.

"I think these companies are trying to be everything to everybody," he said. "But the only one approaching that goal is IBM."

IBM initially will OEM four IP networking products from Brocade, Whiting said.

The first is the FastIron GS family of fixed configuration switches with modular upgradability for speeds of up to 10-Gbit Ethernet and Power over Ethernet (PoE) capability in a 1.5U high form-factor. It competes with Cisco's model 3750 switch.

The second is the FastIron SX family scalable, secure, low-latency and fault-tolerant switches for deployment of VoIP, wireless, and high-capacity data services. It competes with Cisco's 4500 with SupV-10GE switch, Whiting said.

The third is the NetIron CES 2000 enterprise and carrier-class 1U edge/aggregation Layer 3 switch series with 1-Gbit Ethernet ports and options for 10-GbE uplinks.

The fourth is the NetIron MLX Metro Ethernet router. It competes with the Cisco Cat 7600 and the Juniper MX series, Whiting said.

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