Battle Lines Being Drawn
Still, Cisco is clearly worried that the Nexus 7000 could cause customers to halt or slow down Catalyst purchases. "I expect there to be a whole new set of products that will be successors to the Catalyst Ethernet switches," said Dave Passmore, research director at Burton Group in Sterling, Va. "Cisco will be the last to admit this because it would cannibalize the Catalyst switches. If or until other members of the Nexus family are ready, they don't want anybody to be thinking that way.""We'll see a battle royal between Fiber Channel over Ethernet versus iSCSI. iSCSI retains the TCP/IP protocol stack, which scales, is extensible and provides nice things like error detection and flow control -- important things to storage networking," he said. The turf war between Brocade, the dominant SAN vendor in the industry, and Cisco, the dominant LAN vendor, could cause battle lines to be drawn within the data center, and between different technology silos. "There's the server people, the network people, the storage people, and they tend to live in their own little worlds. This data center fabric technology [could] break down some of those barriers if they want this to become reality," said John Webster, industry analyst with Illuminata in Nashua, NH. "Cisco will spin this vision to any CIO they can find. Brocade knows they can talk to the operations people, because that's where they play. That's the door they're going to go into. It'll be interesting to see which winds up the better door," he added. In that scenario, it's possible both switches could end up in the same data center. Should that be the case, "it will be interesting to see how well they interoperate," commented Enterprise Strategy Group's Laliberte. The battle could also become a three way clash of titans once Juniper Networks enters the fray as expected later this year. But Juniper may not have the same skin in the game, believes Lippis. "To me what you'll get from Juniper is high port density, high performance and high availability, but they won't have the intellectual property Cisco brings to Nexus," Lippis said. "Cisco spent about $1 billion over four years [on Nexus 7000] and they've got 1500 patents, six million lines of code, 10 custom Application Specific Integrated Circuits. This is so high design," he said.
Passmore believes the duel between Brocade and Cisco underscores a looming, broader industry battle for next-generation data center with battle lines drawn around competing technologies.