Mental Ward

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The Great Cisco Earthquake

So, Cisco's now a server OEMer. I'd say this qualifies as somewhat substantial news.

Wow. I must admit that I didn't think Cisco would be taking this step -- Nostradamus, I ain't. Does this make sense for Cisco? And what will it mean for the virtualization market? No one knows for sure right now, but it sure is a tremor-causing event in the hardware world.

I found it interesting that on a Cisco blog, Douglas Gourlay is downplaying the danger to HP, Dell and IBM. "This is not the ‘Clash of the Titans’ or us ‘coming after HP or IBM or Dell’," Gourlay wrote. Sure. I have no doubt that those vendors are delighted to have Cisco moving into their building. I bet that one, or all, of those "Titans" are now in meetings right now, putting up plans for their own routers and switches on a whiteboard.

Gourlay blows even more smoke when he says "Unified Computing is not going to be a single-vendor closed system for the entire data center.  We are not advocating going and doing a forklift upgrade or rip/replace on existing data centers customers have." Call me a dyed-in-the-wool cynic, but I have a feeling this is exactly what Cisco will be pushing. After all, unification gets easier with fewer vendors, doesn't it? More interop, fewer vendors to call for support, yada yada yada.

For the virtualization players, it's a cause for celebration. VMware, Microsoft, Red Hat (RHEL 5), Novell (SUSE Linux) have all partnered with Cisco on the Unified Computing System (UCS). vSphere looks like it will be supported out of the gate, while System Center Virtual Machine Manager support is in the works, according to Microsoft.

But I think the biggest winner on the virtualization side is VMware. ESX and VMware Virtual Infrastructure are the most enterprise-worthy products, and it looks like VMware has a significant networking virtualization lead, since it's been working with Cisco on the Nexus 1000V virtual switch for some time now. In addition, VMware has been working on unified datacenter architecture the longest, with last year's announcement of the Virtual Datacenter OS (VDC-OS), which has been renamed vSphere. Once again, VMware has the virtualization technology lead over the competition, and will probably have its solutions integrated with UCS first.

It's interesting to note that Citrix wasn't brought on board as a partner. That could be coming in the future, but apparently Cisco didn't feel the need to collaborate out the door with the company that some people feel is the third of the "Big Three" virtualization vendors, along with VMware and Microsoft. Of course, you'll be able to use XenServer with this architecture if you wish, but Cisco pushed the VMware and Microsoft aspects. Bob Muglia, president of Server and Tools for Microsoft, and VMware President and CEO Paul Maritz were both involved in a Webcast presentation about the announcement this morning, and Cisco announced that "The relationships with BMC Software, EMC, Microsoft, and VMware extend beyond technical integration to provide services and end-to-end support for the Unified Computing solution." The signs couldn't be much clearer that Cisco sees ESX and Hyper-V as the underlying platforms.

The Linux camp has a real opportunity here as well, with Red Hat and Novell on board at the starting gate. It will be interesting to see which flavor of Linux gains more traction: SUSE, using the Xen hypervisor, or RHEL, which is moving to the KVM hypervisor in its next release. Red Hat is developing a good enterprise story; I suspect that its recent announcement of an enterprise suite of offerings will give it the edge here.

Welcome to the server party, Cisco! I can't wait to see where all this leads.

Posted by Keith Ward on 03/16/2009 at 12:48 PM


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