The launch of its Unified Computing System initiative actually means that Cisco Systems will now be attempting to combine and oversee the management of operations not just of data centers but networks. Which puts Cisco on what is the biggest playing field in enterprise computing.
"It's a big deal for Cisco. It is entering the 'IT Systems' market which is very different from the Data Center Networking business,'' said Vernon Turner, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Enterprise Computing, Network, Consumer, and Infrastructure at International Data Corporation.
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"The company that works out the interdependencies (think Apple - iPod) often wins.'' Turner said. "And this is where I see the UCS working out the complexity of virtualization within the server, storage and network'' pieces of a company's computing operations.
But the payoff may not come soon, he said. IT infrastructure, he noted, takes "a long time to change."
The approach, he said, does differentiate Cisco from HP and IBM, because Cisco can go from the home, where it places Internet routers and TV set-top boxes, to the "mega data center" to offices anywhere in an enterprise.
"But Cisco will need applications that have taken someone like IBM over 20 years to build,'' he said.
Even so, the combination of Cisco, VMWare and EMC could be regarded one of the top three competitors "in the compute market,'' he said.
The initiative also puts Cisco square in the blade server fray, competing with the likes of Dell. "Cisco is a legitimate competitive threat in the x86 blade server market,'' and likely to fight fiercely for market share, said Steven J. Schuchart Jr., principal data center analyst with Current Analysis. But Cisco is not stopping there, introducing a "broader line of servers to compete beyond the very large data center,'' he said.
One of the big three in computing, though, does not seem to be what Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers intends for this "ecosystem" of hardware, chip and software companies to constitute. Take Cisco, he said. "We've almost always become the top player" in any business it chooses to enter,'' he said.
And the way in which the Unified Computing System announcement was conducted he considered proof of intent. The speakers from Cisco, EMC, Accenture, VMware and other key partners were around a desk at Cisco headquarters in San Jose. The video presentation connected that Telepresence center with more than a dozen elsewhere around the globe, including England and France, where participants could see other through two-way visual communications. And other remote users not in Telepresence centers were connected via IPTV streams, to home and office computers.
Whitepapers: Cisco Unified Computing System - At-A-Glance Innovations Behind Cisco Unified Computing System