At its Cisco Live event today in Las Vegas, Cisco rolled out a range of new features and products designed to convince companies that Cisco is all they need for their cloud network and server needs. But will customers actually buy into Cisco’s vision?
Conventional wisdom suggests buying into the convenience and performance of converged infrastructure also means buying into the dreaded vendor lock-in problem. As it turns out, however, that doesn’t have to be the case — Dell and Egenera are two players leading the charge for open converged infrastructure.
Supercomputing 2009 kicked off today, and some of the announcements coming out of the show are quite relevant to the scale-out world outside of research centers. For example, HP rolled out some new blade-server and storage products designed to increase density while decreasing power consumption, and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab is using IBM’s ultra-dense iDataPlex servers as the foundation for its own cloud-computing testbed program. Elsewhere, IBM announced its private analytics cloud solution, AT&T launched its infrastructure-as-service offering, and Appirio created a chart of the cloud-computing ecosystem that will help customers keep track of which providers do what across public, private and SaaS environments.
Cisco might be offering a shrunken version of its Nexus 5000 switch to fit into third-party blade chassis, but that does not mean these third parties — especially IBM, HP and Dell — will forgive Cisco for stealing their server sales. All have formed partnerships with other networking vendors (or stepped up their own efforts), and they still are competing with Cisco in a flailing server market. Customers probably will demand Cisco interoperability, but I don’t expect IBM, HP or Dell will push the new Nexus switch too hard, lest they end up pushing customers into the open arms of Cisco’s Unified Computing System.
The second-quarter server market estimates from IDC and Gartner do not paint a pretty picture of that industry. Both revenues and shipments are down, down, down, and success is measured by who suffered the smallest double-digit declines in year-over-year metrics. However, there is one beacon of hope for server makers: Blade server revenues fell at a rate less than half that of the overall market (roughly 12 percent compared with roughly 30 percent). As the market strategizes around how to recover, will blades be the key to success?
There are indications this might be the case in enterprise data centers. Cisco, for example, has centered its Unified Computing System around the blade form factor (although it is supposed to start selling a rack-mounted, “pizza box” server later this year), and IBM’s internal cloud solution, CloudBurst, essentially is a cloud-optimized IBM BladeCenter rack (and we all know how hot cloud computing is). This week brought us the Dell PAN Manager Datacenter-in-a-Box. BLADE Network Technologies, a manufacturer of blade switches — and beneficiary of OEM (original equipment manufacturer) arrangements with IBM, NEC, Verari and market leader HP — just received more funding and is touting a record percent year-over-year revenue increase. It looks like companies already know the value of blades, and conventional wisdom suggests they will buy even more as next-generation data center build-outs get under way.
Virtualization, which is hotter than ever thanks to its cloud connection, should serve as a boon to blade sales. After all, if a business’ mission is to increase flexibility and minimize complexity, space-saving blade servers are a great physical incarnation of that strategy. New hypervisors are blade-ready out of the gates, and Cisco’s UCS servers actually come equipped with VMware technology. Speaking of Cisco, the realization of its rumored joint venture with EMC would help it move even more blades.
1 Billion Mobile Cloud Subscribers
Contrasting with the dire server reports is the ABI Research forecast of 998 million mobile cloud subscribers by 2014. The cloud will become the “leading mobile application development and deployment strategy,” the report suggests, although it seems a safe bet that many mobile apps already are housed in the cloud, as it is an ideal paradigm for apps subject to major spikes in popularity and usage. Whether Apple’s billion-dollar iDataCenter will serve as a hosting facility for mobile apps remains to be seen. Even now, mobile apps housed in corporate data centers can leverage the cloud via load-testing services like SOASTA CloudTest.
While cloud providers are aggressively targeting enterprise workloads, consumer-targeted applications could be a bigger moneymaker than imagined just a few years back. The enterprises, it turns out, might be investing their cloud dollars internally — in blades.
Question of the week
Dell (well, Egenera, actually) made its first move in the upcoming unified computing war by launching the Dell PAN Datacenter-in-a-Box. It combines Dell blade servers and storage, plus networking, with Egenera’s PAN Manager software. The solution is a direct competitor to Cisco’s UCS and HP’s BladeSystem Matrix (with orchestration software), but its inclusion of storage and Egenera’s production-proven software sets it apart. Cisco, in particular, is lacking both a fabric-style management layer and storage (although it has a tight relationship with EMC). Now that the big three blade vendors, plus Cisco, officially have stakes in this market, the battle should begin soon.
BLADE Network Technologies today said it raised $10 million in Series B funding from NEC Corp., Juniper Networks (s jnpr), Garnett & Helfrich Capital and an anonymous server maker, bringing its total valuation to $230 million. The startup switch provider also reported record revenue in its last quarter, during which time many IT vendors — including networking rival Cisco (s csco) — saw sales plummet. Sure, BLADE Network’s sharp focus providing switches only for blade servers (themselves a bright spot in the IT industry) ensures it won’t be matching even a recession-era Cisco in revenue anytime soon, but its relative success does speak volumes about the blade market and the wisdom of doing one thing well. Read More about BLADE Network Rides OEM Deals to $230M Valuation
Dell (s DELL), the world’s second-largest server maker, is responding to Cisco Systems (s CSCO) and its new blade servers by doing what it knows best: Taking a neutral stance and helping to sell devices to customers that want a more heterogeneous data center environment. That’s code for people who don’t want to get locked into a wholly Cisco-centric solution. And when that’s no longer enough, Dell will go out and acquire companies to combat its rival.
Cisco caused some tremors in the typically staid server industry earlier this week when it introduced a brand-new way of tackling the data center infrastructure, one that treats compute resources as mere elements of the network fabric. The company has dubbed this unique approach “Unified Computing.” With this move, Cisco is challenging traditional server makers, with Dell and Hewlett-Packard (s HPQ) in its crosshairs. Of the two, I think Dell is the most vulnerable.
Not so, according to Rick Becker, a V-P of software and solutions at Dell. Read More about How Dell Will Respond to Cisco’s Server Challenge
Cisco is betting that video, collaboration and virtualization will help it to grow between 12 and 17 percent over the next few years and overcome the maturing sales of its core products, switches and routers. But it won’t be easy as the company squares off against bigger and fiercer rivals.
The movement toward blade servers in the enterprise data center has been growing steadily for some time, backed by manufacturers like IBM and HP. But expect to soon see networking giant Cisco Systems enter this market as well, setting themselves up for a tense battle with blade server manufacturers for control of the enterprise data center. [digg=http://digg.com/tech_news/Coming_Soon_The_Cisco_Blade_Server]
Earlier this year Cisco introduced their next generation of data center switches, the Nexus 7000 series. While many in the industry saw this announcement as playing catch-up to the likes of Force10 in the data center switching market, the blade server market took notice. Cisco is not a blade server manufacturer -– they are a networking company pushing the envelope of their areas of expertise in an attempt to keep their place in the enterprise data center. They already produce Linux-based blades for their Catalyst 6500 Series switches, so it seems logical to expect that a blade server will appear shortly in the Nexus 7000 Series. Read More about Coming Soon: The Cisco Blade Server?