Cisco to enter the x86 server market with a blade system – Updated

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There is no doubt that Cisco has seriously reconsidered its strategy in the last few years, taking several steps to extend its brand well beyond the image of a network vendor.

Obviously the most significant move so far has been the massive investment in virtualization: the company first invested $150 million in VMware IPO, then extended by another $13 million (buying 500,000 Intel’s shares), and now it’s preparing to release the first virtual switch for VMware ESX.

But Cisco may go much further than that: is collecting rumors from several sources that the company is preparing to fully enter the x86 server market by producing and selling a blade system  which embeds its new Nexus 5000 switches.

The company already sells a physical server, the Wide Area Application Services (WAAS), but so far the equipment has been pitched for a specific purpose: deploy a set of core enterprise services (like the DNS and the DHCP) to the branch offices.
And this is why the server comes with Windows Server 2008 preinstalled (and recently with an unveiled virtualization engine).

Of course offering a general purpose x86 blade system with integrated networking is a much different story and would put Cisco in direct competition with the biggest OEMs in the market: Dell, HP, IBM, etc.
All of them has a tight business relationship with VMware, but none of them currently invests in the virtualization vendor.

Cisco may surprise the market and release a blade system with VMware Infrastructure 4.0, its new virtual switch Nexus 1000V, its new physical switch Nexus 5000 and its virtual center automation suite VFrame Data Center.
The fact that EMC owns VMware would do the rest…

Update: continues to receive confirmations from additional sources that this more than a rumor. The platform is called codename California and Cisco may announce it in early 2009, possibly at VMworld Europe 2009.

Second update: has a final confirmation of the existence of this Cisco blade system currently called codename California.
The platform is going to feature a massive amount of memory, data center automation tools and deep integration with VMware Infrastructure.

Cisco is definitively going to shift its position in the IT market. Expect some serious consequences in the ecosystem.