Feeds

Open source to bust up Cisco Borg collective?

Can't beat that Sun Microsystems' feelin'

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Open...and Shut Microsoft gets all the press for being a reformed monopolist, but in the hoary world of networking, no one has dominated longer or more tenaciously than Cisco Systems. And while Cisco has seen upstart competitors come and mostly go, perhaps none has the chance to up-end the networking giant's comfortable position more than Vyatta.

No, really.

Vyatta has been aspiring to topple Cisco from its throne for several years. Based on Cisco's most recent earnings, it doesn't seem to be working. At all.

It's not for lack of trying, or for a lack of chutzpah. Vyatta chief execuive Kelly Herrell has been putting an expiration date on Cisco's fortunes since the small open-source startup was formed, but to little effect.

But something seems to be changing. That something is virtualization, and it's putting a strong wind at Vyatta's back.

A little context is necessary. Cisco competes in a dizzying array of markets. Even within the generic "networking" market, it has a broad portfolio. Probably the best way to describe the meeting point for Vyatta and Cisco is the "secure routing" market. Think of it as "when traffic enters or exits your building on the way to or from the Internet."

Sound niche? It's not. It's an $8bn enterprise market. The average price of traditional, proprietary Cisco hardware in this market ranges from $1 to $100,000.

But don't expect to pay Cisco $1.

It doesn't have to. This particular market exploded in the 1990s when everyone was building out distributed networks. In the process Cisco cornered the market and at its height had 90 per cent market share. With legions of Cisco-trained network engineers, proprietary software locks (it had its own IOS well before Apple's), Cisco had monopoly power that commanded a hefty price in customer conversations.

No one else, including Juniper Networks, was anywhere close.

But something happened on the way to Cisco's absolute dominance of the networking market. Standards happened.

Networks used to rely on Cisco-proprietary protocols, which were the company's technology lockup. Over time, however, networks shifted to Internet Protocol. Vendor interoperability became the reality. Cisco's grip started to loosen on its customers, dropping from 90 percent of the market to roughly 75 per cent in consequence. Other vendors are gaining ground, but it will take years (decades?) to see Cisco slip into the 30 to 40 per cent market share range.

But standards have started the ball rolling.

That ball has been helped along by an unlikely assistant: Intel, a monopoly force in its own right.

Intel back in the game

In the old days, Intel used to have a separate business unit that sold networking chips, which the company sold in December 2007. Pundits speculated that this meant Intel was killing its focus on networking, but they were wrong: Intel had a roadmap that absorbed network processing into the standard x86 architecture. It just wasn't on the market yet.

But it was coming.

The 2010 Intel Developer Event featured more than 10 separate tracks on x86 networking performance. Attendees could attend sessions on "Line rate 10Gb/s," "virtualized networking," "cloud networking." Suddenly Intel had networking in spades.

Chip prices in the networking market hit free-fall mode, to the point that today an x86 server costing $1,000 to $2,000 will outperform more expensive hardware that runs $15,000 to $50,000 per box. Vendors like Vyatta based its chip strategy on Intel, and has seen dramatic performance improvements over the past few years, all paid for by Intel's R&D budget.

Just as Unix gave way to Linux, in large part due to the cost benefits of Linux's x86 hardware, so, too, has Vyatta been banking on a shift from expensive Cisco to a low-cost, open-source Vyatta router platform (PDF).

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

More from The Register

next story
Whoah! How many Google Play apps want to read your texts?
Google's app permissions far too lax – security firm survey
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
Do YOU work at Microsoft? Um. Are you SURE about that?
Nokia and marketing types first to get the bullet, says report
Microsoft takes on Chromebook with low-cost Windows laptops
Redmond's chief salesman: We're taking 'hard' decisions
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Big Blue Apple: IBM to sell iPads, iPhones to enterprises
iOS/2 gear loaded with apps for big biz ... uh oh BlackBerry
OpenWRT gets native IPv6 slurping in major refresh
Also faster init and a new packages system
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
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.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.