Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) fired back at Cisco Systems ( CSCO) Monday, unveiling its BladeSystem Matrix technology, which it's touting as a "datacenter in a box".

Despite conjuring up images of Keanu Reeves battling shadowy "Agents" in a future world, this Matrix is essentially a rack packed with servers, storage and networking gear. H-P is clearly on the warpath after its long-time partner Cisco recently entered the server market with its Unified Computing System.

With rival IBM ( IBM) recently circling Sun Microsystems ( JAVA), now destined to become part of Oracle ( ORCL), H-P's competitive landscape is in a state of flux. With so much uncertainty in the tech spending climate, the last thing H-P needs is Cisco stepping on its toes.

Cue the BladeSystem Matrix, which H-P claims will reduce users' IT costs by consolidating their hardware and software into one place.

"Think of it as a pool of computer, networking and storage resources," said Jim Ganthier, vice president of H-P's enterprise storage and server division. "We cover all the types of assets that you have in your data center."

Like Cisco's UCS, H-P is also touting built-in virtualization.

Virtualization, which lets users divide physical hardware into multiple 'virtual' chunks has grown in popularity among users looking to juggle a myriad of operating systems and applications. Despite plenty of hype from the likes of VMware ( VMW), however, analysts estimate that anywhere from 50% to 75% of datacenters have still not adopted the technology, and H-P is eyeing this opportunity.

According to Ganthier, the Matrix will come with H-P's 'Virtual Connect' technology, which manages server, storage and networking resources.

Whereas Cisco is partnering with EMC ( EMC) and NetApp ( NTAP) to provide the storage component of its UCS, H-P's BladeSystem Matrix comes with the manufacturer's own kit. Ganthier, however, told TheStreet.com that gear from other tech companies could fit within the Matrix rack, albeit with a performance hit.

"You can use stuff from other vendors, but they don't work as well as the 100% H-P stuff," he said, explaining that H-P's own products work best with its Virtual Connect technology.

Cisco's UCS has already prompted a war of words with H-P, underlining the heightened tension between the two companies.

Traditionally, Cisco had focused its energies on networking technology such as switches and routers, although the firm is now seeking out new revenue streams. H-P, on the other hand, has started to extend its own reach beyond PCs and servers into the networking arena with its ProCurve line.

H-P, which was one of TheStreet.com's top tech picks for 2009, recently warned that it does not expect a major uptick in demand for its products before the end of this year.

The Palo Alto, Calif., company, which recently lowered its full-year revenue estimate, was seen as one of the few tech companies successfully withstanding the current financial storm, but it has felt the effects of the IT spending slowdown.