No one can doubt that Cisco Systems took some heat in the blogosphere about their Unified Computing System (UCS) vision. Many sites, including Gestalt IT, suggested that the admittedly impressive combination of hardware might not be all that welcome in corporate data centers.
We at Gestalt IT applaud Cisco, and especially Wendy Mars, for their straightforward responses to our concerns. Cisco responds particularly to some of the question we and others (see the list below) have raised:
- Is it really more than a blade server?
- Who’s going to deliver the solution?
- Is this a data center in a box?
- Do enterprises want to unify networks, storage, and servers? (This is where she calls us out by name)
- The challenge of outages and downtime
- Is UCS only suitable for green-field sites?
- Will this lock customers into a proprietary system?
Cisco responds to our question about the reluctance of existing IT infrastructure organizations to want to “unify” the various parts of their environment (server, networks, storage), which would seem to be the result of adopting the UCS vision. Wendy flatly says “they do” want to do this, that “they’ve been demanding this for some time”, and that Forrester and Gartner support this. Perhaps it is true that “C-level” management would love to unify these organizations, but do the “foot soldiers” want to do it? Certainly not!
There is massive resistance to unifying storage, servers, and networking among IT professionals:
- Storage folks claim that server and networking groups don’t understand just how hard it is to meet the massive I/O demands placed on them. They also feel like critical elements like latency and storage resource management are overlooked by the rest of the infrastructure community. Storage is just a bunch of disk drives, right?
- Networking folks typically de-value storage and servers as mere end points and feel that the rest of the infrastructure community doesn’t understand how hard it is to keep everything talking. Networking is just some cabling, right?
- Server people feel like their domain is where all the real work happens, and storage and networks are just enablers. They’re closest to the end users, so they feel like network and storage groups don’t see the business pressures they face. But servers are just big PCs, right?
Whenever these three organizations meet, they disagree about priorities and root cause. They don’t speak each other’s languages. They don’t understand the best practices that have evolved. And when a company tries to merge them into a single organization, balls start dropping. The network is neglected. Or the storage is left to rot. Or the servers are virtualized just to get “that PC hardware” out of the way.
Now take a networking company like Cisco and watch it try to enter the world of storage and servers. Is it any surprise that there is resistance and even backlash against these “uninformed newcomers”? Cisco did everything right with their Fibre Channel storage product line, yet they failed to dominate the market. They probably hastened the marriage of Brocade and McData, but the fabric boys are probably stronger now then they have ever been. Cisco’s storage products were not a mistake, but they were not the runaway hit that many (including me) thought they would be. Once the dust settled, the most common question I heard from enterprise storage and networking folks was a simple one: “Is there any benefit to consolidating storage and networking with one vendor?”
Yet UCS, and the entire datacenter Ethernet vision, is something else entirely. It’s not consolidation on a single vendor with no urgent reason, as was the case with storage. UCS is real consolidation. Storage and networking and server hardware and virtualization all living under one roof and all managed together. All friends. Will this work? I don’t think the jury is in with a verdict. In fact, I think the jury has just started hearing evidence!
Watch the Video!
Cisco’s UCS Blogroll
If you’re interested, Cisco closes the video with a blogroll. Here it is in clickable form:
- Scott Lowe
- The Hot Aisle (note corrected URL)
- Rational Survivability
- Colin McNamara
- Storagebod (A Gestalt IT author)
- Brian Madden
- Christopher Crowhurst
- Gestalt IT (Hey, that’s us!)
- Open Source Juicer
- Storage Rap
- Marc Hamilton
- SOA Real World
- Paul Fallon
- Ethereal Mind (A Gestalt IT author)
- Storage Mojo
- Cloud of Data
- Mark Wilson