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Sources: Cisco Held Talks With SolidFire, Could Have Used It For Hyper-Converged Play

Cisco still lacks a hyper-converged infrastructure play, and sources say talks held earlier this year with storage vendor SolidFire could have provided it an entry into the market.

Cisco Systems and flash storage vendor SolidFire held talks earlier this year about an acquisition or strategic partnership but were unable to come to terms, three sources familiar with the matter told CRN this week.

Cisco and SolidFire were close to an agreement before the talks fizzled sometime in the March-April time frame, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity. At Cisco's partner conference in late April, executives told some partners the SolidFire talks would not be restarted, said the sources.

Spokespeople from Cisco and SolidFire declined comment.

Unlike most of its rivals, Cisco, San Jose, Calif., still doesn't have a product in the hyper-converged market, which typically refers to compute, storage and virtualization running on x86 server hardware. Cisco has indicated to partners that it plans to have a hyper-converged product on the market next quarter.

[Related: Cisco Reportedly Planning To Acquire Startup Nutanix In Hyper-Converged Blockbuster]

"We've been waiting for Cisco to roll out their own hyper-platform, but the truth is it is very hard to do in an intelligent way," said one Cisco partner. "I’m sure Cisco will do something; they have the cash on hand and a new CEO who's looking to make his mark."

Some partners said there are a couple of reasons why SolidFire, a Boulder, Colo.-based firm that has raised $150 million since its founding in 2010, would be a good fit for Cisco.

SolidFire is heavily involved in OpenStack, an area where Cisco is making big investments as of late. Cisco acquired OpenStack startup Piston Cloud earlier this week and last September picked up Metacloud, a provider of OpenStack-based private clouds.

SolidFire also sells Element X, a software-only version of its all-flash array technology that's aimed at hyper-scale data centers, service providers and OEMs. Since Cisco has many service provider customers, Element X would be a logical fit for Cisco's portfolio, partners told CRN.

While the subject of the Cisco-SolidFire talks isn't clear, some partners think Cisco could use SolidFire's software in conjunction with UCS servers to deliver a hyper-converged play.

"Cisco could put storage on UCS and use the SolidFire software to create a Nutanix-like offering. With UCS B-Series and C-Series, Cisco would have an entry-level and high-end hyper-converged product," said one Cisco partner, who didn't want to be named.


In the meantime, although a Cisco-SolidFire hyper-converged offering doesn't appear to be on the table, the vendors look set to continue building on their existing partnership.

Cisco is planning to demo SolidFire technology running on its UCS C-series and UCS Mini servers next week at its Cisco Live conference, sources said. And SolidFire is set to unveil a new "agile infrastructure reference architecture" for OpenStack that's built on Cisco UCS.

"SolidFire has been a key ecosystem partner for Cisco UCS and has created a UCS-based solution with Cisco Reference Design for the UCS Mini, driven by customer needs," a Cisco spokesman said in an email.

In another interesting move, SolidFire hired Jared Rinderer, the independent equities analyst who first reported earlier this month that Cisco was going to acquire Nutanix, as a financial analyst last week.

PUBLISHED JUNE 5, 2015

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