Uncommon Wisdom

Mar 17 2009   3:38PM GMT

Cisco’s generalized data center solution — risky business

Tom Nolle Tom Nolle Profile: Tom Nolle

Cisco made its long-awaited “California” announcement, but the event didn’t fully address the critical questions of just how the new products will be positioned. At one level, Cisco announced itself as a general-purpose blade-center-based IT competitor to IBM, HP and other computer vendors. At another level, Cisco appeared to be putting forward positioning that makes a distinction between a new Unified Computing System and a classic data center.

UCS is heavily linked to network virtualization, strongly linked to storage networking and somewhat linked to cloud computing. Most will recognize much of the UCS positioning from prior Cisco presentations on network support for virtualization, and Cisco trotted out a bunch of partners from Accenture to EMC to try to defuse concern that it might be trying to be a one-stop data center solution provider.

Our view of California from the first has been that anything that presented a generalized data center solution would be incredibly ambitious and risky for Cisco, and we believe that Cisco’s efforts to avoid the risks have not been sufficient, at least in terms of positioning. Counter-pressure from a tightening of the IBM/Juniper relationship seems inevitable if Cisco really goes after the data center market. Juniper’s Project Stratus fabric approach to switching appears more directly responsive to the data center opportunity and less likely to create IT vendor angst.

But will Cisco really do what the product material suggests? The early sales targets and beta tests, according to our sources, are primarily like service delivery platform (SDP) applications, content servers and other special missions.

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