Cisco creates its own server virtualization offering

Published: March 17th, 2009

Much was made of Cisco’s (Nasdaq: CSCO) entry into the blade server market place, but in the end the networking giant announced more than just a point product.

Called Unified Computing System, this next generation platform unites computing, networking and storage access along with virtualization resources into one system for the data centre.

Cisco’s promise with Unified Computing is that it will be energy efficient, reduce capital and operation costs and deliver business agility.

Rob Lloyd, executive vice-president designate for Cisco worldwide operations, said that Unified Computing is an architecture that bridges the silos in the data centre.

“Every customer is looking at saving money and getting business agility and almost everyone is looking to virtualization. A lot of that progress has been focused on server virtualization. Unified Computing solves some of the big barriers such as memory, control policy and security on virtual machines, which move freely in the data centre. Unified Computing gives customers the ability to really unleash the true power of virtualization,” Lloyd said.

From a channel perspective, Unified Computing is not intended as a point solution. Lloyd told the press watching from 14 Telepresence locations around the world that Unified Computing is system and that it would be sold, shipped and configured as a system.

“We’ll sell this as a system and that is what’s different about it. It will be delivered as an Intel blade architecture with expanded memory that enables more virtual machines to run inside, but the innovation is how we put it all together. That is why it is different. We are not competing with other blade platforms, but as a system,” he said.

Lloyd added that Unified Computing architecture may enable customers to cluster thousands of machines through a networking fabric connected to possibly 40 other servers.

An open partner ecosystem was built in conjunction with the Unified Computing announcement. Vendor partners such as Accenture, BMC Software, EMC, Intel, Microsoft, Red Hat and VMware have all signed on to help boost the market adoption of Unified Computing.

Channel partners will get a crack at selling the Unified Computing system if they have Cisco Data Center Specialization. Cisco said it would develop a new channel program designed to enable and accelerate the sales of tested, validated reference designs for Unified Computing that could incorporate products from vendors such as EMC, Microsoft, NetApp, Red Hat and VMware.

Conspicuous by its absence was HP, one of Cisco’s top integration partners in Canada. According to Harry Zarek, president and CEO of Compugen, Unified Computing will create some friction between HP and Cisco, but he added that “positive competitive tension is always good for business.”

A large portion of this will overlap with the other vendor partners, said John Growdon, senior director, data centre technology go to market and channel programs for Cisco.

The program, which is still in development, will have training, joint marketing initiatives and some incentives. What Cisco ultimately wants to do with this program is leverage the best of all the computing companies in this area, Growden said.

“The concept behind this program is that we are doing validated designs with a set of ecosystem partners. Those will be tested and validated and effectively rolled out to the joint channel community,” Growden said.

The company is also enlisting additional channel partners for this effort as well. Those signed up will be a part of new program called Unified Computing Authorized Technology Provider program.

There are only 250 Data Center Specialized channel partners in the world today.

Compugen is currently Cisco’s only nationwide partner in Canada for Unified Computing because of its storage networking and virtualization practices. Zarek said Unified Computing is a great concept architecturally.

“There is no one silver bullet that will immediately start a turnaround in customer business. From what I am seeing there is a very strong focus on the customer to reduce cost quickly and at the same time improve productive; meaning doing more with less people. Unified Computing speaks in a major way to this and it plays well in the core business we are in,” Zarek said.

He added that Unified Computing is not just a virtualization-only play. “There are business process reviews and we can help with that. The days of blindly upgrading are gone. This is not where the market is today,” Zarek said.

Dante Malagrino, director of engineering, server access and virtualization business unit, for Cisco echoed Zarek’s comments saying that the overall opportunity is throughout the data center and not solely with virtualization.

Malagrino said solution providers can offer more on servers, networking, software and other hardware options.

He estimated that the data centre addressable market is between $85 to $120 billion and that Cisco has about nine per cent of that today.

“Unified Computing is optimized to enhance the experience of virtualization in the data centre, but it is also usable for several other types of computing,” Malagrino said.

One example of this is expanding memory, which is a requirement to increase the density of virtual machines, but also for databases, high performance computing machines.“The reality is that Unified Computing is not just for virtualization,” Malagrino added.


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