Cisco takes Letterman-style approach to push Unified Computing System savings

Cisco raised the stakes today in the Great Data Center War of 2009 - and it didn't involve a new product or strategy announcement.Instead, the marketing department took to the Web in a David Letterman-type format to explain to a live audience why its new Unified Computing System is the winning solution for the enterprise - and they did it in a unique and fresh way that differentiates the company from its competitors.

Cisco raised the stakes today in the Great Data Center War of 2009 - and it didn't involve a new product or strategy announcement.

Instead, the marketing department took to the Web in a David Letterman-type format to explain to a live audience why its new Unified Computing System is the winning solution for the enterprise - and they did it in a unique and fresh way that differentiates the company from its competitors.

Score one for Cisco for taking the conversation into a new direction.

Also see: Cisco's big data center plans: Assessing winners and losers rack by rack

The presentation went straight to the heart of topics that might be confusing some customers, especially as the big players - from HP and IBM to Dell and Sun - make data center announcements of their own.

Cisco marketing executives, who served as guests on the show, tackled topics such as return on investment, integration into existing systems, the use of standard technologies and the ability to scale.

Take a look at these slides and the real-dollar savings that Cisco is emphasizing. That goes to the heart of what customers want - real ROI numbers - and HP, IBM, Dell and the others will need to cough up some ROI calculations of their own if they want to level this playing field.

And how does that compare to a 320-blade configuration?

As the Cisco executives explained the savings that a company might recognize, they also played up the company's trump card - networking. The data center is driven by the network and the management software - elements that shouldn't be after-thoughts or add-ons, the executives said. Cisco, they added, innovated at the networking level to help customers realize even more cost savings. At one point, marketing vice president Soni Jiandani said the "spinal cord of the system is the standard network."

Finally, the company tackled some of the myths that they keep hearing about the shift to a new data center infrastructure. For example, the executives said that it's untrue that the systems are proprietary and won't play nice with existing systems or competitors equipment. Cisco, they said, is utilizing industry standard components, protocols and APIs.

As it wrapped up its "Cisco TV production," the company hinted that there will be future shows on the Web to continue the conversation and dive in deeper into the concerns that customers might be having as they contemplate data center upgrade decisions.

As a side note, Cisco's marketing efforts as it transitions beyond being a networking company - whether through videos or a strong presence in social media circles - have been impressive. Today's effort is just another example of how Cisco is tackling the competition from several different approaches. Competitors should take note.

Previous coverage:

Cisco: 'We're going to compete with HP'

Cisco launches bid to capture the data center

Cisco's jump into servers: It's just business