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Why Cisco’s Biggest Threat May Be Facebook

Hewlett-Packard and Dell are poised to open a new front in their battle with Cisco Systems over networking gear, thanks to the rise of open-source hardware. And H-P and Dell will likely field some powerful weapons from an unlikely source: Facebook.

On Tuesday, Facebook announced it would make available to an open-source group its internal design of a networking switch called Wedge. Taiwanese networking gear maker Accton said it plans to ship the new switch by this summer. H-P, which has an existing deal to sell Accton gear, is expected to eventually sell the switch, though not until it has adapted the equipment for its customers.

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“[Tech giants] care about being able to get stuff out quickly,” said Cisco’s Omar Sultan. “But it’s not black and white. There are some shades of grey in there. If my Facebook blows up, I probably don’t care. But if I can’t get my bank balance, I’ll be more irritated.”