by Martin Veitch

Cisco aligns stars and moon for server push

Mar 16, 20093 mins
IT Leadership

With the dust settling on Cisco’s announcement that it will enter the server market, what have we learned? Is this a sea-change in datacentre computing, a blip or something in between? To find out, I spoke to Jim DeHaven, the man responsible for Cisco’s Datacentre Business Transformation Team here in the UK and Ireland.

First up, is he convinced by the media’s major response: that this is Cisco acting as turncoat against erstwhile partners such as server giants like HP?

“We’ve been competing and partnering for quite some time,” DeHaven responds with perpendicular bat. “With Microsoft we compete quite heavily but on unified communications we work very closely together. In some areas we’ll compete with HP and in others we will work with them.”

That’s probably fair enough. After all, ‘co-optition’ — bastard child of competition and co-operation — is nothing new in technology.

OK, so is Cisco ready to compete in servers? After all, lots of companies have entered new markets with the intention of becoming top dog, only to turn back with tail between legs…

DeHaven’s comeback is that about 75 per cent of its Advanced Technology Partners already resell Microsoft products and about half already resell VMware, so datacentre compute resources are not new to the Cisco channel.

However, “the route to market will be multithreaded”, he adds, suggesting system integrators, outsourcers and others will need to get trained up in order to bring in the big bucks from offering value-added consulting.

In the short term, where are the sales going to come from?

“Any customer who is Cisco-friendly” will be among the infamous low-hanging fruit. Tech firms, service providers, media firms, financial services outfits and the like then, but, says DeHaven, the opportunity “is very horizontal” and that includes firms with tons of legacy as well as those lucky few with green-field projects.

The clinching factor as far as Cisco is concerned is that it has come up with a way to segue servers with all ancillary activity from networking to storage, and do so in an energy- and resource-efficient way that will delight firms embarking on datacentre consolidation projects or building cloud mega-datacentres.

“We’re trying to do more with the networking component before the CIO receives the kit,” says DeHaven, “not just opening up the API but also through tighter integration between the vendors.”

Amen to that. If it cracks open a new market for converged servers, a whole new world of riches awaits Cisco. If not, then it always has that $30bn of cash to spend.