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Stand By For Cisco’s Server Announcement

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We’ve all known for a long while that Cisco has plans for the data centre. This week we find out what they are.

This Monday, March 16 2009, looks like being a red letter day for Cisco, and for networks in general. It’s no secret that the company is ambitious to be more than just a plumber to the Internet, but the actual plans are about to be revealed.

Cisco has the money, the talent, the installed base, and the leadership to change the game and make a serious bid to provide more in data centres than just the network. But – just what will it be doing?

Servers. Storage arrays. Virtualised operating systems, applications and storage. Speedy I/O constructs. Business analytics and aggregated intelligence. They all need ultra-fast networking, and many of those things are already in the Cisco product line or about to join it.

Cisco wants to change the role of IT administrators, allowing them to boot up their systems from the network. It aims to add system intelligence and virtualisation capabilities right into the network infrastructure in order to add efficiency – and save power at the same time.

Cisco and its charismatic and respected CEO, John Chambers have been working toward this day for a long, long time, and the clues have been coming for just as long.

Two years ago at the VMWorld conference in San Francisco, Chambers took the unusual step for a keynote address of promoting his own company’s virtualisation offering, VFrame Data Center appliance – which is, in effect, Cisco’s data centre operating system. But given VMware’s dominating presence at the conference, Chambers cast the speech so as to highlight the importance of “network” virtualisation.

You just knew he wanted to talk about all virtualisation in the data centre, but it wasn’t his place at the time. He certainly could have; after all, Cisco is a part owner of VMware.

In September 2007, eWEEK’s networking writer Paula Musich interviewed Jayshree Ullal, Cisco’s senior vice president of data centre, switching and security technology, about how the company expected this long-range strategy to play out.

For its strategy to work, Musich wrote, “Cisco has to gain the confidence of a totally new audience and entice them to accept its vision of orchestrating and provisioning different resources to support the on-demand creation of virtual machines.” The first product instantiation of that vision, the VFrame provisioning appliance, was launched at the end of July [2007] at Cisco’s Networkers user conference.

And the company has been aiming for March 16, 2009, ever since.