Well it is February already and I am just now fulfilling one of my New Year’s resolutions – to start blogging more often. So here I go.
Last week, I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes chatting with Steve Kaplan, a vice president at INX, a Cisco reseller. Steve is also the author of the blog “By the Bell” where late last year he compared Cisco UCS to HP BladeSystem Matrix. He and I had the chance to compare our points of view on the applicability of blades. Needless to say, our point of view here at HP is quite different from Steve’s support of UCS.
Here is a summary of a couple of areas that perhaps Steve and I do not yet see eye to eye.
1. We at HP do not see UCS as comparable in functionality to BladeSystem Matrix, which we believe is in a category by itself. Why is this? Unlike other offerings that manage servers or VMs one at a time, Matrix uniquely allows customers to provision and manage the infrastructure of an entire application all at once – all the servers, VMs, storage, networks, and server images – through a service catalog based provisioning portal. Further, Matrix also has built-in capacity planning tools and disaster recovery tools that are not found in UCS.
2. We believe that data center power and cooling are substantial costs and challenges for customers and warrant significant attention. It appears to me that Cisco has largely ignored this in their UCS design. Not mentioned in Steve’s analysis is the ability for BladeSystem to throttle the power consumption of most chassis components that consume power including CPUs, memory, fans and power supplies to keep infrastructure running efficiently all the time. Also not mentioned is that UCS requires up to double the amount of data center power allocated per server compared to BladeSystem.
While Steve’s analysis is very detailed, he omits general descriptions of the very capabilities of BladeSystem and BladeSystem Matrix that have made BladeSystem the most popular blades platform on the planet – with over 1.6 million blades sold. (These can be found at www.hp.com/go/bladesystem and www.hp.com/go/matrix). Anyone interested in hearing more of what I have to say about converged infrastructure and BladeSystem can check out this Information Week article.
I appreciate Steve taking the time to write on blades, one of my favorite topics! I hope the dialogue over what customers find important for their IT infrastructure continues, as this is an important topic for our industry. Our many years in the blades business has taught us a lot, and we always look forward to the opportunity to share with customers the technologies we can bring to help them save time, reduce power and cut costs associated with managing IT infrastructure, all while becoming more efficient.
It doesn’t happen often, but here is one of those situations in life where that dismal science, economics, can be useful and fun.
First a little definition ….
Price transparency is defined as a situation in which both buyer and seller know what products, services or capital assets are available and at what price.
Now, price transparency is a way of life in the business of standards-based, x86 servers. This even includes blade servers.
Go to any of the major vendors’ web sites such as Dell.com, IBM.com, HP.com or even resellers such as CDW.com and you can freely look up at least what each vendor’s list price is. You can bet that we vendors do this all the time to ensure we are ‘competitive’ with each other. And so do all of our customers. In fact, our customers know our list price and our competitors’ before any of us set foot in a customer’s place. That helps keep us vendors on our toes to deliver better products while keeping prices lower for customers. The x86 market is a living example of price transparency.
Until you get to the newest member of the x86 server community …
Cisco claims on their web site that their recently announced Unified Computing System is “Reducing total cost of ownership at the platform, site, and organizational levels”. The glaring omission is “minus the cost”. One would presume this includes a competitively priced set of compute, storage, enclosure, interconnect, management tool, software licenses and support components. But aside from Cisco’s word for it, this cannot be verified.
This is because Cisco, unlike the other server vendors, does not publish their UCS list price on their web site. Nor do their resellers seem to. This makes it difficult for customers (or competitors) to independently validate features to prices in a standards-based industry.
Given Cisco’s traditionally high margins on network plumbing gear (65% vs. the 20% margins of x86 servers), vendors, analysts and customers could be forgiven if they were suspicious of high prices for UCS. In fact one could see some of Cisco’s UCS prices needing to be three times as high as industry averages to meet their business model.
So come on, how about a call for the free market and industry standards. Are we all about the same price? Is Cisco really cheaper?
Michael P. Kendall