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While most customers encourage competition among vendors, sometimes they also serve as active catalysts for vendors to come together, collaborate and deliver joint innovations that deliver true value. This is one of those times.  And it turns out to be a win-win for all.

Today, Cisco and HP made a joint announcement on a technology co-engineered by both the companies – the Nexus B22 Fabric Extender (FEX) for HP (a.k.a Nexus B22HP), that is now generally available (GA). This is a new Fabric Extender custom-built in a blade form factor for the HP c-class Blade System server environment. HP customers using this Fabric Extender will be able to connect the HP BladeSystem chassis to the Cisco Nexus-based network and derive the benefits of Cisco’s Unified Fabric architecture. Bottom line – it provides more investment protection and choice for common customers that have HP blade servers and Cisco networking.

The Nexus B22HP Fabric Extender leverages the emerging IEEE 802.1BR standard – another example of how Cisco and HP are pooling our collective expertise to drive common standards while addressing some of the emerging challenges of scaling virtual machine networking.

Here’s what the fruit of our collaboration looks like:

Cisco Nexus B22 Fabric Extender for HP provides sixteen 10GBase-KR internal connections to the blade servers, one per slot in the HP c7000 chassis, and eight 10GbE SFP+ connections to the fabric.

A parent Cisco Nexus 5000 can act as a single point of management to support upto 24 HP c-Class BladeSystem chassis, helping customers consolidate network management points by up to 98%.

The Nexus B22HP lowers total cost of ownership by supporting end-to-end converged fabric, device consolidation and simplifying cabling management. Supporting technologies like virtual Port-Channel (vPC) and Cisco FabricPath eliminate reliance on the Spanning Tree Protocol, enabling a large multipath, loop free topology.

The Nexus B22HP makes the work of a network administrator easy by providing network visibility of the server fabric, giving administrators the ability to manage, monitor and troubleshoot up to 24 HP c-Class BladeSystem chassis from a single parent switch.

For more inquisitive minds, here are some questions we already answered.

Why is Cisco doing this collaboration in a market we compete so heavily?

It is simple. Cisco and HP both have a large base of common customers. Many have standardized on HP servers and enclosures while investing in Cisco’s networking infrastructure. For those customers, it is important to ensure they have choice and investment protection. HP has always welcomed outside interconnect vendors to join their BladeSystem portfolio and Cisco has traditionally been a part of that portfolio with Catalyst 3020 and 3120 series and the MDS9124 Fabric Switches.

Great, how do I buy this product?

HP and their channel partners who sell blade server products will be able to sell the Nexus B22 FEX for HP BladeSystem.

What other products have HP and Cisco co-engineered and brought to market?

HP and Cisco have worked together to develop blade switch products extending back to 2004. These include Ethernet switches such as the Catalyst 3020 and 3120 series and the MDS9124 Fabric Switches

What does this mean to Cisco respective product lines?

There is NO change to either company’s products or services. Both HP and Cisco will continue to individually develop our existing networking and server portfolios in an effort to provide our customers with new and innovative features.

Cisco continues to invest in and see tremendous growth both in our network and compute portfolio.

How does this combined solution compete with existing Cisco and HP server and networking solutions?

The Cisco Fabric Extender for HP BladeSystem was not designed to compete with either company’s offerings. Its purpose is to allow our customers the freedom to mix HP server blades with Cisco Networking. Customers are free to evaluate the merits of other HP and Cisco offerings and determine the best products for their needs.

Cisco has always committed to delivering architectural flexibility and evolutionary Innovation to our customers. This is an example of extending that concept with other vendors.

Will there be others vendors who OEM Cisco Fabric Extender technology?

HP is the first major server vendor to OEM this technology and to participate in Cisco’s FEX Ecosystem. Since FEX blade form factors are specific to each vendor’s chassis, it will involve custom engagement and engineering with other server vendors. Cisco will not comment on any plans in progress, but encourages other vendors to join the fabric extender ecosystem.

Over 6000 customers have bought over 8 million FEX ports since their introduction. We invite our common customers to try out this new innovation and experience benefits. You can find more information about Cisco’s Nexus B22 Fabric Extenders at www.cisco.com/go/b22fex and about Cisco’s Unified Fabric approach at www.cisco.com/go/unifiedfabric.

As always, your questions and comments are welcome.

Very best,

Shashi Kiran

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26 Comments.


  1. Really i am not sales person but i am a technical engineer, i asking if this product will decrease the chance of Cisco to get new UCS or Blade server customer !!! or in another mean is Cisco interest to protect the already common customer investment more than make a new Cisco Unified Computing System Customer ?
    I don’t now if we can see Data Center created from Cisco Servers Switches firewall…. etc in the next few years.

       0 likes

    • Will Ochandarena

      Rami, we don’t see this product impacting our UCS sales in any way. This product was introduced to help customers integrate existing HP server deployments into the Nexus fabric.

         0 likes

  2. This is a win-win for both companies and their customers. HP needed converged networking outside of the chassis and an improvement to scalability for multiple chassis deployments. Cisco needed a way to get more Nexus switching fabric attached to existing and new servers, whether it’s HP or Cisco UCS.

    I don’t think this will hurt Cisco at all.

       0 likes

  3. About time this product has arrived. I’ve been looking forward to a FEX for the HP blade enclosures for a while now.

       0 likes

  4. It is about time. What HBA(‘s) will work with this? Would the LOB in a BL49x G7 work with this ? To bad there isn’t a port to hook the OA boards to.

       0 likes

    • Will Ochandarena

      Jim, the B22 FEX will interoperate with all HP 10GE and CNA (Converged Networking Adapter) LOM & Mezz adapters. No support for native FC HBAs.

         0 likes

  5. Will there be others vendors who OEM Cisco Fabric Extender technology?
    Sure there will. I can think of Dell and Fujitsu who would need a FEX in their current portfolio. IBM already has the Nexus 4000 so I guess one of the two mentioned before will make the next announcement. I would even say Fujitsu is next because their blade chassis is form factor compatible with HP.

    Just my 2 cents

       0 likes

    • While we cannot comment on anybody else at this time, we are treating the Nexus B22 offering as a part of Cisco’s Fabric Extender ecosystem offering. Stay tuned!

         0 likes

  6. With third-party FEX support, it would seem that the Nexus 4000 is now a dead-end product.

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    • Will Ochandarena

      The Nexus 4000 is still the only Cisco 10G switch offering for IBM, so we don’t have any plans to discontinue it at this time.

         0 likes

  7. Suresh Rajagopalan

    Can the Nexus B22 be connected to a parent Nexus 7000?

       0 likes

  8. can this fabric extender connected to the fabric interconnect at the UCS ? so it can be manage together with UCS Manager ?

       0 likes

  9. What is differnet the 802.1Qbh and 802.1BR?

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  10. Just wanted to share that there’s considerable interest in this technology with the global audience thus far, including China and Korea, based on enquiries we have received from the media and others thus far.

    The concept of Fabric Extensibility and the Fabric Extender product line has also piqued the interest of a number of analysts and customers, and we are being asked for more information. Stay tuned for more blogs and focused outreach on this topic that will be educational in nature.

       0 likes

  11. hi,

    best wishes on the collaboration. I saw this link below.

    http://virtualeverything.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/peeling-back-the-onion-on-hp-fex/

    can you share what is possible wiht Cisco fex technology with UCS and what is capable with HP B22 fex? is the article correct?

       0 likes

  12. Bill, it would be best to connect with a Cisco account team or channel partner to discuss details about UCS or Cisco’s FEX technology. As far as we can tell, the article appears accurate.

       0 likes

  13. Shashi, this is a great example of coopetition. Cisco definitely has more upside here and I suspect this won’t be the last one. Good luck with upcoming earnings.

       0 likes

  14. Gosh, several days ago, romer had it that Cisco and Hp had a big battle on data center…but now, they…collaberate ??? how can we live in networks production market…

       0 likes

  15. Great questions and answers – thank you.

    We purchased a Nexus 7000 and two Nexus 2000′s just this fall. I saw your answer regarding the 7000, but can I connect this to a parent Nexus 2000?

    Regards,
    Justin

       0 likes

    • Justin, thanks for your question.

      For the B22 to work, it requires the parent switch be a Nexus 5000. Plus, daisy chaining of FEX switches (B22 to Nexus 2000) is currently not supported in the FEX architecture.

         0 likes

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