HP expected to "expand" to battle Cisco

There's an interesting piece here that suggests HP may make a major acquisition to expand its data center offerings in an effort to ward off Cisco's broadening ambitions in that market. The names of the usual suspects -- Brocade, Juniper, NetApp -- emerge, however, so it's a bit of old news.

But what is interesting is the comment that HP is a $120 billion company that has to grow through acquisition in order to, well, grow:

"They have to grow through acquisitions because it's just difficult to move the needle when you have almost $120 billion in revenue," said Shannon Cross, an analyst at Cross Research Group LLC in Livingston, N.J. "They're very competent in buying companies and integrating them into their businesses."

Also enlightening is the fact that HP has acquired 31 companies since 2005, the year Mark Hurd took over as CEO. Buying Brocade, though, might amount to an admission that its ProCurve networking unit could not build out its data center switching portfolio in time for the coming battle with Cisco -- and IBM, Oracle, etc. Brocade now owns Foundry, a company already entrenched in high-performance computing and data center networking applications.

Another hot rumor has HP stopping short of acquiring Brocade, yet OEMing the Foundry switches, like IBM did two weeks ago. It would be the second time around for HP -- it used to OEM Foundry switches years ago before ProCurve spun its own ASICs and developed competitive products. And like IBM, HP already OEMs Brocade's SAN fabric switches so this would be a non-disruptive extension.

It would also be a quick stopgap until ProCurve built out the high-end of its switching portfolio to more completely address the data center opportunity.

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