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Looking to boost its competitive position in a market where big technology vendors are increasingly seeking to provide customers with a complete solution – from servers to networking equipment – IBM has announced an expansion of its existing relationships with networking vendors Brocade, Cisco and Juniper.

The announcement immediately led to speculation that IBM’s efforts marked a defensive move against an increasingly competitive Cisco, which added its own data center stack recently that includes its own Cisco-branded servers in a solution called Cisco Unified Computing. Cisco’s release of its own servers was viewed as a direct competitive move against the likes of HP and IBM, giants in the server space. IBM’s move this week was seen particularly as further cozying up to Juniper Networks.

HP had entered that arms race against Cisco back in 2005 with the addition of its ProCurve line of routers which the technology giant has since expanded extensively.

Today’s announcement from IBM calls for expanded relationships with three networking vendors.  

IBM announced an OEM deal with channel-friendly Juniper Networks whereby IBM will rebrand and sell selected Juniper EX and MX switches and routers, which will be available later this year. IBM says the deal expands upon the agreement between the two companies that includes a reseller deal with IBM Global Technology Services as well as collaboration on Juniper’s Stratus Project and IBM’s ten worldwide Cloud Labs.

Juniper’s Stratus Project is widely viewed as the networking vendor’s answer to Cisco’s Unified Computing offensive – an effort to control the data center stack with a full solution.

The expanded relationship with Brocade includes IBM’s introduction of the IBM Converged Switch B32 and 10 Gb Convered Network Adapter (CAN) for IBM System x, the first Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) offerings, manufactured by Brocade.
IBM says that FCoE represents an emerging technology that provides faster networking performance and lets customers simplify their datacenter infrastructure and lower both capital and operational expenses by consolidating traffic over a shared network.

IBM also said that it has expanded its relationship with Cisco through an agreement that enables its Systems and Technology Group sellers and partners to resell the Cisco Nexus 5000 Series Switches, which the companies say are a family of high-performance, low-latency switches for data center networks supporting lossless 10Gb Ethernet, Fibre Channel and FCoE. These products can be ordered now and are expected to be available in September.