I just read an article in the NY Times about the HP 3Com merger. Analysts were touting how HP ProCurve was going to battle Cisco for dominance in the data center. I believe that I am uniquely positioned to offer an opinion. I work on both servers and networking gear, we also have both Cisco and HP networking gear.
First the certification track. Cisco has set the standard for networking certification. It is a loss-leader for them. Because so many network engineers have Cisco certifications they are partial to working on Cisco gear. Once end users are vested in the education that a strong certification provides they understand the nuances that make it take. While I believe HP has a certification track, I have never met someone with an HP certification.
Second is the documentation. The Cisco documentation CD or learning portal is unrivaled in the technology sector. The only way Cisco technology could be more transparent is to go open source. I regularly access Cisco documentation and it is phenomenal. When I go looking for an HP document, it is with a prayer mumbled under my breath.
Third is IOS. The power of IOS compared to the ProCurve option set is overwhelming. We used to have an HP switch in our datacenter, but the command set was so lacking, we replaced it. We have kept some HP ProCurve switches on the edge, but that is because they are not required to anything fancy.
I am not saying that HP cannot get there, but to say that they will rival Cisco in the data center is fanciful thinking.
While Cisco has been moving away from it’s core competency, routing, I do not believe at this point that routing has suffered.