Cisco's bong-sized "cloud"

Peeling the onion on the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) reveals a very small onion. The platform they're promoting is tiny by cloud infrastructure standards.

Peeling the onion on the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) reveals a very small onion. The platform they're promoting is tiny by cloud infrastructure standards. Perfect for a dorm room - but not anywhere near close to what an enterprise hoping for economies of scale or management would want.

The problems:

Several months away So they don't know what they've got: every major engineering project starts dumping features as deadlines loom. Customers may like the concept, but will they like the product?

Sure, v.2 will be much better, but by calling out "cloud grade" as "better than enterprise-grade" Cisco has legitimized the cluster compute and storage products of other vendors with application expertise: IBM, HP and Sun.

Thanks for the memory Cisco remarked several times on the new blades supporting many more virtual machines per server thanks to Intel's soon TBA new Xeons large memory capacity. "More memory than any other blade" - until other vendors announce blades using the same Intel processors.

Note to Cisco: don't try to build a sustainable competitive advantage on Intel's sand.

Server margins suck A gangster once told fictional private eye Philip Marlowe "I could make your business my business" and Marlowe replied "You wouldn't like it - the pay's too small." That's the server business in a nutshell.

The real money in servers is storage. While Cisco may enlarge the pie it will shrink its margins. Heavy investment in a low-margin business. Sure, that'll make shareholders happy.

MIA The announcement was more interesting for who wasn't there: IBM, HP, Sun, Dell, Google, Amazon and Yahoo. The former 4 because they represent traditional competition and the latter 3 the cloud.

Sun is already working on a Cisco margin-destroying counterattack - like Seagate, HP and IBM performed on Quantum's DLT - and if IBM buys 'em it will have much more market heft.

Selling what you don't have The vision of hundreds of virtual servers working together is awesome - but it isn't happening now - mostly for storage reasons. VMware's storage infrastructure is pathetic - VMFS maxes out at 32 nodes; and Hyper-V's is worse. The Unified Computing System won't unify much if the storage issues aren't addressed.

The Storage Bits take Cisco's partner-friendly strategy enabled it to build a strong position in data center networking and routing. But declaring war on HP and IBM means it will no longer get a pass from these much larger companies.

Cisco has endorsed commodity-based cloud infrastructures without offering anything competitive. At best they've started a race to the bottom in blade servers and networks against a company, HP, who's just finished mopping the floor with Dell - who used to be a tough, low-cost competitor.

I'd ask for a bowl of whatever Cisco's CEO is smoking - but I don't think I could handle it. Beer pong, anyone?

Courteous comments welcome, of course.

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