By now every virtualization.info reader should know that Cisco is about to enter the x86 server market with a brand new blade system codenamed California.
We broke the news in early December 2008, unveiling that the product will feature a massive hardware set and an unprecedented (for the company) unification of server, networking and storage resources.
Anyway so far nor virtualization.info neither the mainstream press that confirmed the news really clarified how this unification is implemented and why Cisco should be especially relevant in the virtualization industry.
Bundling the new blade system with the upcoming VMware vSphere 4.0 and the upcoming virtual switch Nexus 1000V is notable but not something the company could call Unified Computing like it’s doing since months now.
There’s a good chance we’ll know next Monday, when Cisco is expected to announce its new strategy. But for now we can speculate on what codename California will really be.
First of all, it’s unlikely that Cisco decides to invade a mature and highly competitive market like this the x86 server one unless it strongly believes it can find an untapped opportunity. There’s plenty of niche and emerging markets where Cisco is and will earn much higher profits at a fraction of the effort (the portable HD cameras is one of them).
Secondarily, it’s unlikely that Cisco really believes it can compete against consolidated leaders like HP, IBM, Dell, etc. in this market by offering VMware vSphere 4.0 through an OEM agreement.
All of the are doing exactly the same since a long time.
So the Cisco blade system, specifically designed for virtualization, must do something more, much more than what it’s currently disclosed.
As suggested in a previous article, the most probable scenario is that Cisco is integrating in a seamless way its very old VFrame Data Center orchestration platform (a product acquired from TopSpin in 2005) with vSphere, maybe using the vCloud APIs that VMware is about to offer in the new platform.
The resulting platform is far away from what HP and IBM offer today and much, much closer (actually competing) with the Egenera solution.
Egenera offers a software/hardware cloud-in-a-box platform called BladeFrame that blends together an orchestration product (PAN Manager) with a leading hypervisor (Citrix XenServer).
The blade system is OEMed by Dell under the name of PAN System and by Fujitsu Siemens under the name of Primergy BladeFrame.
So if Cisco is going to compete with somebody in the x86 market that is not HP or IBM, but more likely Egenera, Dell, Fujitsu Siemens and all the other partners that will OEM the PanManager solution.
And this will validate the Egenera approach more than a hundred of case histories.
The company, which is reportedly under scrutiny for acquisition, may sell in the blink of an eye.