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Cisco Is NOT Getting Into the Server Business…

February 13th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Yes, yes. We've talked about this before here. Cisco is introducing a blade chassis that includes compute capabilities (heretofore referred to as a 'blade server.')  It also includes networking, storage and virtualization all wrapped up in a tidy bundle.

So while that looks like a blade server (quack!,) walks like a blade server (quack! quack!) that doesn't mean it's going to be positioned, talked about or sold like a blade server (quack! quack! quack!)

What's my point?  What Cisco is building is just another building block of virtualized INFRASTRUCTURE. Necessary infrastructure to ensure control and relevance as their customers' networks morph.

My point is that what Cisco is building is the natural by-product of converged technologies with an approach that deserves attention.  It *is* unified computing.  It's a solution that includes integrated capabilities that otherwise customers would be responsible for piecing together themselves…and that's one of the biggest problems we have with disruptive innovation today: integration.

While the analysts worry about margin erosion and cannibalizing the ecosystem (which is inevitable as a result of both innovation and consolidation,) this is a great move for Cisco, especially when you recognize that if they didn't do this, the internalization of network and storage layers within the virtualization platforms  would otherwise cause them to lose relevance beyond dumb plumbing in virtualized and cloud environments.

Also, let us not forget that one of the beauties of having this "end-to-end" solution from a security perspective is the ability to leverage policy across not only the network, but compute and storage realms also.  You can whine (and I have) about the quality of the security functionality offered by Cisco, but the coverage you're going to get with centralized policy that has affinity across the datacenter (and beyond,) iis  going to be hard to beat.

(There, I said it…OMG, I'm becoming a fanboy!)

And as far as competency as a "server" vendor, c'mon. Firstly, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a commoditzed PC architecture that Joe's Crab Shack could market as a solution and besides which, that's what ODM's are for.  I'm sure we'll see just as much "buy and ally" with the build as part of this process. 

What's the difference between a blade chassis with intel line processors and integrated networking and a switch these days?  Not much.

So, what Cisco may lose in margin in the "server" sale, they will by far make up with the value people will pay for with converged compute, network, storage, virtualization, management, VN-Link, the Nexus 1000v, security and the integrated one-stop-shopping you'll get.  And if folks want to keep buying their HP's and IBM's, they have that choice, too.


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  1. February 13th, 2009 at 10:55 | #1

    Spot on. Although I think convergence has a *long* way to go before it's more than just marketing-speak. Converged security across the breadth of a company's infrastructure may sound great, but if that framework's foundation is flimsy you have an even bigger problem. This is one of the reasons why I'm not a Cisco fan, historically. Over the years I've seen them pay attention to security enough to "get into the market" (NetRanger, anyone? anyone?)… and then sell it with zero-margin just to sell the stuff. If that's the way that 'converged security' goes… we're in for a sh**-storm, those of us who care about real security.

  2. February 13th, 2009 at 10:59 | #2

    That's an absolutely valid point, Rafal. Security has sort of gone by the wayside as the megatrends of disruptive innovation have eclipsed some of the more mundane and difficult problems (like security.)
    I think we're going to see a renewed effort in this area. We have to. As the enterprise flips (quite literally) inside to out in a more pronounced fashion, all the "metastructure" that goes with it will, too. This means we are going to have to really adapt our models and solutions for securing this.
    It's a long haul, big picture venture, too. This is NOT (as you state) going to happen overnight, but it *will* happen.

  3. February 13th, 2009 at 15:02 | #3

    As always, you can be counted on to goose the conversation in a useful direction. When people look at the term "unified computing", they tend to obsess about the "computing", when the real key is the "unified" part which is what we need to really move the ball forward. A useful end-state is going to require that a) we can treat something like security policy holistically across infrastructure and b) we abstract policy from the specifics of the underlying infrastructure. This was one of the underlying principles behind VN-Link–the ability to move a VM and associated network and security policy around without sweating the underlying physical pieces and parts.
    Omar Sultan

  4. February 24th, 2009 at 02:48 | #4

    Awesome! This is the first sensible analysis of Cisco's long term ambitions in the Data Centre I have read. Thanks for bringing some insight to the discussion.
    Justin Grant

  5. Andrew Bradshaw
    March 17th, 2009 at 02:06 | #5

    Just saw this on the Cisco site….

  1. March 17th, 2009 at 13:21 | #1
  2. July 12th, 2009 at 14:22 | #2