On Wednesday, Soni Jiandani announced an expansion of Cisco’s UCS family, adding rack servers to their hardware roadmap.
I’m really scratching my head at this move. Soni says that her goal with these products – 1U and 2U servers each with two Intel Xeon processors – will be to broaden the reach of UCS beyond environments that could adopt Cisco’s blade hardware. That sounds reasonable – it’s like posting your used car on Craigslist, even though you’ve already pasted a “For Sale” sign the window; you’ll reach more potential customers if you do both.
But servers aren’t stand-alone products, and hanging a “For Sale” sign on a pizza box server won’t solve any problems. A server has to have a big ecosystem of software, services, and compatible solutions around it. In fact, I’ve said before that nobody wants to buy a server at all ; the only reason they acquire them is because it’s a necessary component to get their email system or online trading system working. Over the years, HP has built up hundreds of software partners and certifies thousands of solutions on its servers. And that’s why ProLiant servers have been the most popular server line for over ten years. I can’t see Cisco developing that kind of solution expertise overnight. Plus, since these servers aren't slated for release for another 6 months, it sets Cisco even further back in developing that ecosystem.
Another thing Cisco’s announced this week touched on partners and training. John Growdon revealed plans for two new Cisco certifications around IT architecture design: “Data Center Architect” and “Data Center Engineer”. Per John, these certs for individuals will help current Cisco-certified network fabric experts expand their skillset, so they can help end-users with the servers and other pieces from UCS.
(The Register quotes John as acknowledging that 70% of those experts are already selling and deploying servers today. Hopefully these new certs won’t require these DCNIs to go back and rip out every server they’ve installed in the past!)
Kidding aside -- I agree with John completely that the people designing any part of your data center – whether it’s the servers, networks, or CRAC units – should be highly trained. I think you also want them to have lots of experience, too. HP and HP partners have been designing data centers and IT architectures for decades. We’ve racked up millions of hours in testing and operations experience. That’s why people trust HP when it comes to the data center. Cisco has years of experience in the networking realm, and that’s probably why they have one of the industry’s most respected networking certification programs. But their lack of experience on the server side makes me question how much value a Cisco certification in servers would have.
So, that’s why I’m scratching my head. Cisco has lots of smart people -- but I can't understand these new UCS announcements.
Today, Cisco announced a new product that leverages network intelligence to provision resources together as virtualized services. This industry-first approach greatly reduces application deployment times, improves overall resource utilization, and offers greater business agility. Further, it includes an open API, and easily integrates with third party management applications, as well as best-of-breed server and storage virtualization offerings.
If this sounds like this weeks announcement by Cisco of their new Unified Computing System (UCS) you would be partially correct. The words in the above paragraph are basically the same as what was used this week at their announcement. However, the above words are actually what they used to describe their new VFrame Data Center 1.2 product when they announce it on July 24, 2007.
At that time, VFrame DC was touted as a key component for Cisco’s vision of next generation data centers, called Data Center 3.0.
However, this week during Cisco’s announcement of their Unified Computing System there was no mention of VFrame Data Center. Instead, they proclaimed that the next step in the Cisco Data Center 3.0 vision is their UCS.
No surprise then that it turns out that VFrame was quietly retired in February, less than 20 months after being announced by John Chambers at Cisco Live as a foundational element of Data Center 3.0.
So what does this mean to you? Well that brings me back to the title of this entry, “Strategic Means Being Steadfast”.
Cisco wants to be your strategic IT partner that you can now trust for all your data center needs. But do trusted partners abandon what they sell as cornerstone technology, with the result of abandoning customers such as you?
HP’s answer is an emphatic ‘no’.
An example: HP still enhances, still sells and still supports OpenVMS. In addition, OpenVMS is available on HP BladeSystem. Yet this is a product that was introduced in 1977, seven years before Cisco became a company.
Something to think about when you choose your strategic trusted IT partner.