Is Cisco Readying Blade Servers?

blade server

According to sources, the San Jose, Calif.-based networking behemoth is readying blade servers, code-named California, for a release early next year. A blade server offering would pit Cisco in direct competition against the likes of Dell, HP and IBM, companies it partners with on their respective blade server offerings.

"This time next year we will know Cisco as a blade server vendor," one source told ChannelWeb.

Cisco, however, would not comment, except to note that it has the data center square in its crosshairs and more products and initiatives will come soon.

"We cannot comment on rumor or speculation," a Cisco spokesperson said. "Cisco is focused on the data center and virtualization, and we brought to the market many innovative technologies over the past 18 months that deliver on Cisco's data center vision. We will continue to deliver new technologies to help our customers build next-generation data centers."

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While details of the servers are few and far between, Cisco is said to be building a cluster that will be the first blade server specifically designed for virtualization, which will reprovision the network when virtual machine workloads are mobilized.

Entrance into the blade server arena would give Cisco more control over the data center, where it has launched massive efforts in recent years with the introduction of the Nexus 7000 and 5000 series of switches and its overall Data Center 3.0 vision.

So far, many solution providers are in the dark about Cisco's blade server plans, but see it as no surprise that Cisco wants to capture some of that lucrative market.

"We're not exactly sure where Cisco is specifically going relative to the data center," said Jim Kavanaugh, CEO of World Wide Technology, a St. Louis-based solution provider and Cisco partner. "We have a strong feeling from their overall focus that the data center is an area of concentration for them and they're looking to grow their presence there. It wouldn't completely surprise me [if Cisco launched a blade server offering]. I think they see the opportunity there."

According to Yankee Group Senior Vice President Zeus Kerravala, if Cisco were to tackle the blade server arena it would fall into its overall vision of unified computing, while also angering blade server stalwarts like HP and IBM, companies that have dominated the space for years.

"It would piss off HP and IBM . . . it would be like sticking a fork in their eyes," he said.

While Cisco has yet to confirm a blade server line is in the offing, Kerravala said it wouldn't be far-fetched for Cisco to build their own. Cisco typically attacks a new market by either partnering, acquiring or building. For blade servers, an acquisition would be out of the question due to the high-cost rival vendors would command. Cisco has also already forged partnerships with some blade server vendors, offering switching options for competitors' blade servers, like HP, IBM and Dell. Building, Kerravala said, would be Cisco's best course of action.

"Workload mobility is one of the keys to the infrastructure that supports the anywhere enterprise," he said. "In order for that to happen, the computing and networking infrastructure would need to work together. And that's what a Cisco blade server offering would do."

Kavanaugh agreed that Cisco could see new data center opportunity.

"Our perspective is, it's a big opportunity and we're continuing to invest in both the hardware and software sides of these holistic data center solutions."

Kavanaugh added that he sees a Cisco blade server offering as an opportunity for Cisco to both partner and compete in the market.

"We think it's a good thing for the market, for us and for Cisco," he said. "We think it's a big space that has a lot of growth opportunities both short term and long term. I've got quite a bit of confidence in Cisco's management, and when they put their minds to something they make it work. It's going to be interesting how it plays out."