Feeds

Cisco may sell blade servers

Let the blade wars begin

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

A Cisco Systems executive has implied that Cisco might enter the blade server computing market and compete directly with Dell, HP and IBM, who all partner Cisco.

Marie Hatter, Cisco's VP for network systems and security systems, did not deny that Cisco was entering the blade server market, instead saying: "If the blade server market provides a market where we can differentiate and we have a compelling offer, and it's something where a complete architectural play has an opportunity to shine, then it would be a market we'd consider." She was speaking at Cisco's C-Scape forum in San Jose, CA, a couple of days ago. That, to me, implies Cisco is looking at doing just that.

There has been a long-standing and tacit truce in the server and networking market that server vendors don't make and sell network boxes while network vendors don't walk on the server turf. HP has well and truly broken that truce since Mark Hurd became its CEO. Forerunner Carly Fiorina believed in partnering with Cisco and held back HP's in-house ProCurve networking business. Hurd unleashed it and the results are impressive.

ProCurve saw its world-wide switched Layer 2 - Layer 7 port shipments grow by 25.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2008 compared to the same period in 2007. This compares with an industry growth rate of 6.6 percent. For Cisco, ProCurve is an HP account sales killer.

Cisco is not shy about entering new markets, as witnessed by its storage networking business. There are a number of Cisco competitors, such as Foundry and Blade Network Technologies, who would relish the opportunity to have stronger relationships with server vendors were Cisco to start selling blade servers and upset the three wise men of the server biz: Dell, HP and IBM.

Dell already has network product relationships outside Cisco - Foundry in Europe for example - and Cisco competition for its core server business might be the spur it needs to enter the network switch/router market with its own manufactured product above the entry-level PowerConnect.

Dell, after all, has entered printing and storage with its own manufactured product, and you would have thought it viewed network switching/routing as a prime place for it to work its market magic.

Cisco is getting very close to VMware with an investment and integration of its products to VMware's infrastructure and a recent announcement of a virtual switch with Cisco software running as a VM in a VMware server. Perhaps a forthcoming Cisco blade server would have VMware functionality included with it as well as the almost certain network front-end infrastructure on it.

There would have to be a reason for customers to buy Cisco X86 blade servers - say, some architectural and feature advantage - and networking is a sure-fire possibility, with virtualisation another.

One highly likely result of Cisco entering the blade server market would be a price war. Another would be the rapid development of added value technology by Dell, HP and IBM as they sharpen the edges of their blade offerings and try to cut off Cisco's entry into their core markets.

Brocade, in the process of buying Foundry, and competing with Cisco in the storage networking space, would have a great opportunity to partner with server vendors and establish its own DCX data centre switch offering as the consolidated data centre switch. Which server vendor is going to want to support Cisco's Nexus 7000 switch in that role knowing that Cisco could take its existing but limited Linux blade server technology, turn it into general server blade technology and populate data centres with its own blades connected to the Nexus or even plugged straight into it?

If Cisco enters the general blade server market it could be a real smart move, giving it a new $5 billion/year business and establishing its networking gear even more firmly in data centres. On the other hand, it could be the dumbest move it has ever made, irritating the hell out of the server vendors and pouring acid onto the carefully nurtured relationships with them.

Whatever the case, the server vendors will be furious. The gloves will be taken off and any tacit truce between networking and server vendors torn up and thrown away. The era of the blade wars will have started; ProCurve opening move followed by Cisco blade response, and then who knows where it might take us. Oh dear Mark Hurd, you will have opened the genie's bottle and let out the power within.

Cisco was unable to respond in time for this feature. ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Sysadmin Day 2014: Quick, there's still time to get the beers in
He walked over the broken glass, killed the thugs... and er... reconnected the cables*
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
SHOCK and AWS: The fall of Amazon's deflationary cloud
Just as Jeff Bezos did to books and CDs, Amazon's rivals are now doing to it
BlackBerry: Toss the server, mate... BES is in the CLOUD now
BlackBerry Enterprise Services takes aim at SMEs - but there's a catch
The triumph of VVOL: Everyone's jumping into bed with VMware
'Bandwagon'? Yes, we're on it and so what, say big dogs
Carbon tax repeal won't see data centre operators cut prices
Rackspace says electricity isn't a major cost, Equinix promises 'no levy'
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.