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Watch out EMC and vendor pals, Cisco's set to flog you with Whiptail

Just a UCS booster? Pull the other one, says Reg storage man

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Blocks and Files El Reg's storage desk is hearing Cisco people saying their partnerships with storage vendors are stronger than ever, following the Whiptail acquisition. They say EMC and other storage array suppliers understand that Whiptail is a UCS-booster, not an array.

Well, excuse me, but what? The idea of Whiptail as a Unified Computing System (UCS) booster is a bit... well, odd. The Whiptail array is a networked storage array with Whiptail's software controlling/managing the flash and presenting it as a block storage resource to multiple server/app combos across the network.

So ... take a UCS and give it a slug of Whiptail flash. We then have a server with a directly connected flash-based SAN storage array. Why do we need all the Whiptail software? Surely caching software would do? Or software that turned the Whiptail flash into an adjunct of main memory (aka storage memory) – but Whiptail's software doesn't do this, as far as I know.

Okay, take several UCS servers and have the Whiptail array connected to them - in which case it's still a network-connected SAN.

Let's look a bit more closely at this.

When it purchased Whiptail, Cisco said: "Whiptail will strengthen Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS) strategy and enhance application performance by integrating scalable solid state memory into the UCS's fabric computing architecture."

So the Whiptail array will be connected by a fabric (Ethernet I guess) to UCS servers. It's still a networked flash SAN array, just closer to the servers. Why would the UCS customers then buy a networked flash SAN (with longer latency) from anyone else - like EMC (XTremIO), NetApp (FlashRay) or Pure Storage or whoever?

Why would the customers buy go-faster PCIe flash cards for those servers either - from EMC or anyone else?

Let's look at this a bit more closely.

Here's a Cisco blog talking about the Whiptail acquisition:

Cisco is announcing its intent to acquire WHIPTAIL. Based in Whippany, New Jersey, WHIPTAIL builds the highest performing and most scalable solid-state memory systems available today. Scalable from one node to up to 30 nodes, WHIPTAIL systems can deliver over four million IOPS and 360 Terabytes of raw capacity – a truly staggering amount of solid-state performance capable of providing the workload optimization required in the App Economy.

By making this acquisition, Cisco is enhancing the Unified Computing System (UCS) by bringing solid-state memory acceleration into the compute tier as a managed subsystem. WHIPTAIL is a perfect architectural fit for UCS because together the two combine a clustered architecture with fabric-based acceleration – all of which is automatable via the UCS Manager and UCS Director.

If this doesn't compete with EMC's ideas about using flash to accelerate "emerging and business critical applications, such as virtualized, Big Data, database, High Performance Computing and transcoding workloads" I'm a big red honking toad.

It's hard to believe that Cisco UCS/Whiptail does not compete with EMC. If EMC can't see that then, well, golly gee, sell your shares. ®

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