Much like solution providers have witnessed a wave of server consolidation over the years, the same phenomenon is starting to take place with network switches. Frequently referred to as flattening the network, this trend is being driven mainly by the advent of two major changes to the way networks are managed.
The first is the rise of virtual switching inside the data center. The presence virtual switches inside the data center simultaneously increases the volume of traffic inside the data center, which in turn drives an upgrade of the physical network switches inside the data center to accommodate all that traffic. Generally speaking, however, there are fewer switches inside the data center because they have been replaced by more robust switches that support all the virtual switches and machines that would otherwise overwhelm the physical network.
At the same time, we’re also seeing the emergence of much larger core networking switches, which in many cases eliminates the need for what is referred to as the distribution layer of the network. For example, Hewlett-Packard is touting its FlexFabric network architecture as a prime example of how to flatten the network, otherwise known as consolidation.
According to Michael Nielsen, director of solution marketing for HP Networking, this approach helps account for recent gains in HP market share. Cisco, naturally begs to differ and reminds folks that upgrading its Catalyst family of switches represents a huge opportunity for the company and its channel partners.
The trouble is counting switches these days doesn’t necessarily reflect market prowess in quite the same way anymore. As Omar Sultan, data center product marketing manager for Cisco, notes, virtual switches on the one hand coupled with much larger core networking switches is changing the dynamics of enterprise networking in ways that make apples to apple comparisons a little challenging.
Nevertheless, recent Cisco financials coupled with a 9 percent reduction in the workforce would seem to indicate that as a seminal shift takes place in the enterprise networking space, incumbent vendors such as Cisco have more to lose than rivals such as HP, or Juniper Networks.
As always, this battle is going to be fought on the frontlines of the channel. The opportunity for solution providers is that there is a genuine opportunity to help customer re-architect their networks to meet the demands of video, virtualization and a host of latency-sensitive applications that will reside on both private and public cloud infrastructure. The downside is that the chest thumping over market share and corporate downsizing might actually do more to obscure that opportunity than it does to shine a light on it.Tags: solution providers, channel, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, data center, virtualization, video, FlexFabric, Catalyst, switches, virtual switches