Cisco’s Virtualisation Move Gets A Mixed Reaction

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Analysts love Cisco’s move into the data centre, and the competition are picking holes in the strategy – while beta testers say it looks promising

Cisco’s long-awaited move into the data centre turned out to be tailored to the times. The network giant is using a partnership with VMware to ride the wave of virtualisation, and claims the Unified Computing System is actually going to fit well with large companies merging and restructuring their data centres in a recession.

Analysts approve of the move, and rival vendors are keen to point out flaws in the project. The one beta tester we have spoken to, Savvis, has given the system a preliminary look-over and is keen to find out more.

VMware leads the Cisco partners

To make this move, Cisco lined up other partners alongside VMware. It also tapped Intel, Accenture, Microsoft, SAP, EMC, Red Hat, and others, to partner in the launch of its Unified Computing System, an ecosystem incorporating a new blade server and the VMware virtualisation platform.

Cisco’s announcement positions the company to compete against IBM and Hewlett-Packard in the enterprise data centre space. VMware’s virtualisation tools are a vital part of the strategy, and Cisco’s other partners are all looking to expand their own ecosystem at that same time Cisco is expanding its offerings.

Cisco and VMware, having entered into an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) agreement, anticipate that the relationship will eventually provide a foundation for cloud-based services.

The synchronisation of the two companies’ offerings is “the only evolutionary road customers can walk on if they want to reach these levels of cloud-like operation,” said VMware CEO Paul Maritz at the Cisco launch.

Maritz went on to predict that the release of the Unified Computing System would increase the pace of virtualisation adoption across the enterprise.
“Not only the flexibility benefits, but the efficiency benefits are going to make this one of those compelling events that will… accelerate the trend toward virtualisation,” Maritz said.

VMware and Cisco have collaborated in the past. At the 2008 VMworld conference, the two jointly announced the development of a software switch that could be used within virtual environments to manage, secure and network virtual machines.

In 2007, Cisco pumped more than $150 million into VMware right before the latter’s highly touted IPO. Ever since, VMware has denied persistent rumours that Cisco might buy the whole company.

The VMware virtualisation platform will allow the Cisco Unified Computing System to support thousands of virtual machines; the Unified Computing System will include the VMware vCenter suite of virtualisation-management products. Cisco is also introducing a series of physical blade servers, code-named “California,” that will run on the Intel Nehalem processors.

“We enter markets when we see inflection points occurring,” Cisco CEO John Chambers said during the presentation. “Today we’re talking about unified computing; then we’ll talk about private clouds.”