Dell and Juniper Networks this week reached an OEM agreement that will let Dell offer Juniper products to data center customers under its PowerConnect brand.

The companies said they will also collaborate on systems for virtualised data centres, specifically using Ethernet virtual switching chassis and application mobility. Company officials would not comment, though, on whether Dell will become a partner in Juniper's Project Stratus cloud computing initiative.

The union heightens the data centre rivalry between both companies and Cisco. Cisco's entry into the data centre blade server business earlier this year catalysed partnerships between server vendors such as Dell, IBM and HP, and Cisco rivals in networking and storage, like Juniper and Brocade.

A few months ago, Dell reached a similar OEM arrangement with Brocade for its SAN and Foundry LAN switches. Dell officials acknowledge some overlap between the Brocade LAN products and Juniper offerings, but said customers will be able to choose which platform best suits their data centre needs.

Juniper's products are more complete in Layer 3 routing, WAN connectivity and security, Dell officials said. Brocade's specialise in storage connectivity, they said.

The companies say their combined offerings will let customers deploy a common network management platform and network operating system to help reduce operating expenses. Dell and Juniper say they will also support the IEEE Converged Enhanced Ethernet/ Data Centre Bridging standards and iSCSI for storage connectivity.

Cisco has its own version of CEE called Data Center Ethernet. Cisco is also aggressively driving Fibre Channel over Ethernet as its converged data center fabric and server/storage connectivity strategy.

Dell resells Brocade's FCoE switches.

The products Dell will deliver under its PowerConnect brand include Juniper's MX Series Ethernet services routers, EX Series Ethernet switches and SRX Series services gateways, which all run Juniper's JUNOS operating system software.

For Juniper, the deal gives it a formidable channel into enterprises and data centres.

"Juniper had no sales force or channel to reach that customer base, until now," says Zeus Kerravala of the Yankee Group. Kerravala noted that just 10% of Dell's business, around $5 billion (£3bn), is bigger than the combined revenues of Juniper and Brocade.

Kerravala also noted that Cisco's traditional networking competitors, Extreme, Enterasys, Nortel, 3Com and the like have been left further behind.

"The Seven Dwarfs are dead," Kerravala said, referring to the Cisco's seven "closest" competitors in Ethernet switching all vying for the 25% revenue share in the market that Cisco does not own. "This is a whole different landscape. It's not just networking. It's networking and computing combined."

With the recent flurry of OEM activity, Cisco's fiercest networking competitors are now IBM, HP, Dell, Juniper and Brocade, Kerravala says.