UCS was supposed to launch Cisco into the server market, but instead it has undermined the company’s data centre switch business, claims Vikram Mehta of rival Blade Technologies
Last year, Cisco’s announcement of the Unified Computing System was big news. The dominant player in Ethernet networks, Cisco, announced blade servers in a bid to annex a new territory and gain greater control over the data centre.
Since then, Cisco has claimed UCS as a success (and our review says it works), but others are suggesting it could have been a big mistake. Cisco is not all-powerful in Ethernet – and its data centre products do not have the leading edge, they say. Its servers are also still untried, so many users are preferring to stick with their existing servers from HP, IBM, Dell or whoever, and not go with Cisco for their data centre Ethernet.
That is the view of Vikram Mehta, chief executive of Blade Network Technologies, and it is not a surprising one, as Blade sees itself as a big Cisco competitor for 10Gigabit Ethernet ports within the data centre. When we spoke to him in January he was dropping hints about new technologies, the Unified Fabric Architecture launched today, as well as doing his best to point out weaknesses in what Cisco has done in the area.
“We have around 9000 customers worldwide, and they include 350 of the Fortune 5000 companies” said Mehta. Other Ethernet customers, including Cisco and Foundry (now part of Brocade) are more established, but their data centre offerings are not, he said. “The Ethernet in Brocade’s Fibre Channel over Ethernet product is not really Foundry Ethernet. It is less proven,” he says, and Cisco’s data centre product is not as strong as its other Ethernet.
“Cisco has two Ethernets”
“Cisco has two Ethernets,” he says. “The Catalyst switches use IOS which is not lossless, low power or low latency,” … all of which are needed in the data centre. “To use Cisco’s Data Center Ethernet, you need to rip and replace,” he said.
By contrast, Blade only plays in the data centre, and only sells lossless, low power, low latency Ethernet: “that compares favourably to what Cisco is doing.” Taking only bladed data centres, Mehta reckoned Blade has 50 percent of the market. And, crucially, he added, “that share has increased by five to seven percentage points since Cisco announced UCS.”
The problem for Cisco, he said, is that customers adopting UCS are expected to replace servers from HP or IBM with Cisco blades, and they don’t want to. “In IBM data centres, 70 percent of ports are ours and 30 percent are Cisco’s.” (this despite IBM’s alliance with Brocade). In HP data centres, he reckoned Blade leads the four options HP backs, and has around 30 percent of those ports.