New HP Partnership With Arista Puts Pressure On Cisco

Hewlett-Packard is partnering with fast-growing networking vendor Arista Networks to deliver more choices for an open converged infrastructure -- a combination that partners say takes aim at rival Cisco Systems.

The companies will combine Arista's networking equipment with HP's 3Par server technology, storage equipment and networking management software OneView, according to an HP release.

"Clearly this will have an impact [on Cisco]," said John Barker, CEO and co-founder of Versatile Communications, a Marlborough, Mass.-based networking solution provider and HP partner. "Arista, unlike many network alternatives, enjoys a successful conversion rate over Cisco. Even hard-core Cisco customers view Arista as an easier transition path given its roots in both former Cisco executives and engineering."

[Related: Gartner Magic Quadrant: Who's Leading The Data Center Networking Market?]

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Before becoming Arista's CEO and president, Jayshree Ullal previously ran Cisco's data center, switching and services group. The rivalry doesn't stop there, as Cisco has filed two lawsuits against Arista, alleging that the Santa Clara, Calif.-based vendor infringed on a number of its patents and stole Cisco copyrighted material.

Partners say Arista's expertise in software-defined networking will be a huge advantage for HP channel partners. This month, research firm Gartner reported that Arista Networks and Cisco as the two leaders in data center networking -- saying Arista "is by far the fastest-growing" vendor in the space.

"Arista is seen as a leader in software-defined networking, so HP can better compete and use Arista against Cisco's ACI, Brocade's SDN and VMware's NSX product," said Bill Smeltzer, chief technology officer of Focus Technology Solutions -- a Seabrook, N.H.-based Cisco and HP partner. "This will give HP a chance for people who are early adopters into SDN and are existing Arista customers on the network side of things to move towards HP for compute and storage."

HP says the new solutions are designed to support private, public and hybrid cloud applications while providing a flexible and open choice across compute and storage. Partners say Arista's high-performance switching combined with 3Par and HP servers is a "powerful combination" channel partners can position in their customer accounts.

For Arista partners, the relationship opens the door to HP's much larger footprint of customer opportunities, according to Shannon Champion, business development manager at Matrix Integration, a Jasper, Ind.-based Arista, HP and Cisco partner.

"It really makes sense, it works," said Champion. "Arista has some great products, their vision is awesome and margins could be interesting [for partners]."

HP partners also can "play both sides," reading HP's white-label switching line, said Smeltzer.

"If customers are looking to use a VMware NSX or some type of OpenStack SDN, they have the white-box switches in there line now, but if the customer is looking for more of the turn-key, off-the-shelf commercial grade SDN, they'll be able to counter that and say, 'Well that's where the Arista product plays in,' " said Smeltzer.