War Of Words: Cisco, HP Trade Barbs Over HP Open-Source Network Switch Launch

Cisco Systems said Hewlett-Packard's Thursday rollout of a new line of branded open-source, white-label network switches for the data center "brings into question a lack of confidence, traction and innovation with the ProCurve/H3C switching portfolio," according to an email sent to CRN Thursday by the San Jose, Calif., company.

" 'White box' or merchant silicon-based switching is not a new phenomenon: in fact today Cisco delivers the most widely deployed merchant silicon data center platform with its Nexus 3000 series switches," said Cisco in the email. "Eight of the 10 largest Internet companies in the world are Cisco customers. Cisco's strategy is to drive value through the transition to Software Defined Networks (SDN) and new business models, through a strategy that includes both merchant silicon, where applicable, and custom ASICs."

HP, in an emailed response to CRN about this story, said, "In contrast to Cisco, HP is listening to our customers and investing in the future. HP continues to lead the innovation curve in SDN, merchant silicon and software licensing and we intend to do the same with the solutions we offered today. All the while Cisco remains focused on keeping their customer base captive."

[Related: Partners: HP Open Source Networking Switches Will Hit Cisco Hard]

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Cisco, meanwhile, pointed to its strong switching and data center results reported in its second-quarter earnings last week.

One Cisco partner, who asked not to be named, said he did see a risk to Cisco "in some degree."

"Does SDN create competitive white space for someone else to move into or does this disruption just really give Cisco a chance to even more firmly entrench themselves as the leader and crush the competition?" said the executive. "That's that answer we don’t have yet. … But I can say the logo on the box or the brand doesn't really matter anymore."

Bill Smeltzer, CTO of Focus Technology Solutions, a Seabrook, N.H.-based Cisco and HP partner, said he doesn't see white-label switches making an impact in the market in the near future, but there is a possibility it will gain momentum down the line, possibly posing a risk to Cisco.

"I don't think there will be an immediate impact," said Smeltzer. "I think if enterprise and commercial-grade customers really get to a point where they start to adopt these open-type, software-defined networks, I think down the road as the equipment gets older and it's time for a refresh, I definitely think that [white-label switches] could start to weigh in on Cisco."

NEXT: Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure Approach

HP, Palo Alto, Calif., wrote specifically in the email about Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure. "Cisco has managed to position its custom and closed ACI approach directly against the industry momentum behind the disaggregation of the network and the adoption of open and standard white box networking solutions," HP wrote.

David Powell, vice president of managed and cloud services at Cisco partner TekLinks, said he isn't shaken by HP's new product line and believes in the approach Cisco has taken with ACI.

"Cisco has enjoyed a leadership position for a long time; they didn’t come in by mistake," said Powell. "Their features and benefits are the best in the industry and they're clearly making significant strides towards SDN. Their flavor is ACI, and staying ahead of the curve. … Their move towards ACI is the correct move to be making."

HP said the new line of switches will be available sometime in March, while pricing was unavailable.