5 Things About the Cisco Announcement and a Wrap Up (Post Prandial)

Lets have a Recap

So Cisco announced its server today. A few quick bullet points if you didn’t pay attention:

  1. Cisco announced something that is more like a fabric of servers, or a network of servers. I think they run VMware only and they have very large CPU/Memory/IO bus architectures but standard Intel for all that.
  2. They have shoehorned a big arse network blade into the chassis that connects to network and storage. Plus it is configuration mechanism. That is, a central configuration fabric for clusters of bare metal servers to act in concert and become a single or many virtual instances. Then VMware runs on top of that. One term I heard is Processing Area Network which seems to sum it up.
  3. Lots of storage vendor love from NetApp and EMC.
  4. Same for the usual, but large, crowd of “me too’s” like Accenture for consulting, Emulex etc for specific accessories
  5. Unusually, Microsoft came out supporting the strategy.

That’s probably enough. If you to geekdive into some infromation check out  Colin McNamara who has obviously be playing with this at Cisco. He has some good details there. Recommended.


Chuck Hollis at EMC expressed serious love in his blog.
Marketwatch got the first press release, its a good enough round up.

My Top Five Takeaways

Number 5 – Cisco outplayed IBM & HP at their own game

“Cisco and VMware today announced a comprehensive, strategic original equipment manufacturer (OEM) agreement which will incorporate product engineering and integrated sales” – by getting VMWare on the same team and acting as their OEM, HP & IBM can hardly get too pissed. Cisco got a better position and outmanoevered them.

HP, IBM and to a lesser extent, Dell, have failed to make significant commitments to virtualisation because they think it means less sales. Which is stupid, it means less sales of bigger hardware with more profit.I’m betting that boneheads inside IBM/HP/Dell cannot really understand the difference between volume and profit. Not really, not enough to actually do anything anyway.

On the other hand, Cisco is not taking HP/IBM/Dell head on so they can stay “frenemies”. This isn’t taking away desktops or SME servers or even traditional servers. But is does steal their leadership on the next generation of technology and thus kills their growth. Even if HP/IBM/Dell pull some technology out of the hat that isn’t from Intel (and that is very unlikely), it will be too late as the Cisco Markenaut will have stifled any opportunity.

For a marketing triumph that nails the coffin shut, Cisco has brought Microsoft (can you believe that), plus EMC, NetApp and raft of other vendors onto their team.

Number 4 – Huge Professional Services Opportunity

Bifurcation of Professional Services Delivery – as usual. On one hand Cisco is partnering with their Data Centre partners (accenture, Tata, et al) but also ” Cisco will also offer virtualization consulting services to help customers accelerate the deployment of Unified Computing Systems across their datacenters…”.

And you when accenture lines up to endorse something you know that consulting is in the mix. They can sniff it out and latch on quicker than a vampire can get to blood in a blood bank.

So Cisco has the resellers on side, and those Cisco reseller partners that signed up for Data Centre specialisation will have huge grins today.

Number 3

Infrastructure Orchestration – thats like the One Ring in Lord of the Rings. One interface to configure all the resources, storage, networking, CPU, memory inside the server frame/network. More importantly they are fully abstracted from the OS, and this includes VMWare. This can be accomplished with a spare “bare metal” server where a new host can be created on the fly, all the way down-do the same NIC configuration as the original server.

Folks, this is grade A, number one goodness. Dollars are going leap out of Enterprise pockets to grab hold of this. Lets pretend that server people will actually understand the concepts here (and many will not), but my understanding suggests that I can create hardware architectures that look exactly like my current servers and then drop my current OS/Application software directly on top.

Imagine porting that CiscoWorks server you built three years ago directly onto emulated hardware, on emulated virtual machine, in virtual platorm. It needs no changes and no migration.

Dream or reality but that’s the marketing message today.

And make no mistake, this is the Enterprise product for building private clouds. None of the namby pamby pretending that public clouds will work and save the known universe from all ills. Public clouds are fifteen to thirty years away when the applications will be ready. This is ready now.

This product allows us to spin private Enterprise clouds. I call this Misty Computing. Its close, on the ground, and somewhat tangible.

I’m still not convinced about FCoE, but it doesn’t look like there much choice to date. I’m still hopeful though (Hi Doug and Omar :-))

Marketing – oh boy, it’s gonna be hard

Sadly, we are going to see an enormous marketing push from Cisco. I don’t know if I can stand it, but, lets face it, most people are not going to understand this technology and will need to be pushed, cajoled, shoved, encouraged and led to water before there will be uptake.

And I’m tired of that. Just tell me the truth and let me get on.

Shiny – its really shiny. And I Like SHINY.


Told you it was SHINY.


It’s interesting that, in a way, it looks as if Cisco has produced a network of servers. Compared to the current methodology of putting servers into your network, this makes sense now that virtualisation means that OS, and applications in the future, will be fully mobile (not bound to single silicon instance).

Whether customers are ready for this product remains to be seen, but so far, it’s hard to believe it won’t be successful. I suspect that HP/IBM/Dell just lost a significant portion of the Enterprise Cloud market.

About the author

Greg Ferro

Greg Ferro is the co-host of Packet Pushers. After surviving 25 years in Enterprise IT with only minor damage, he uses his networking expertise for good in the service of others by deep diving on technology and industry. His unique role as an inspirational cynicist brings a sense of fun, practicality and sheer talent to world of data networking and its place in a world of clouds.

He blogs regularly at http://etherealmind.com and the podcasts are at http://packetpushers.net.

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