HP, Dell Respond to Cisco's Data Center Ambitions

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2009-03-23 Print this article Print

Data center systems competitors claim Cisco's network-centric view of the data center is great for bandwidth management, but falls short in the areas of service-level delivery and data reliability and accessibility. Vendor lock-in is another issue, HP says.

What do Cisco Systems' key competitors in the data center systems business really think of the big networking fish that will soon be flopping around in their pond, trying to gain new market share?

Cisco announced on March 16 its Unified Computing System strategy, which includes the production of new network-centric server, software and services that will compete directly with those of Hewlett-Packard, Dell and other systems makers.

All IT vendor roads lead to the data center, and the paths that go there often cross over each other. Business is done on a slippery slope when companies that partner on some technology solutions have to become cutthroat competitors in other sectors; you can't talk too nastily about a partnering company without burning some bridges that could have been useful later on.

However, Hewlett-Packard, which has been in the IT systems business for three generations, was pretty candid about this new challenge.

"Would you let a plumber build your house?" Jim Ganthier, HP's vice president of infrastructure software and blades, asked eWEEK. "Cisco's network-centric view of the data center is great for bandwidth management, but leaves a lot to chance in terms of service-level delivery as well as data reliability and accessibility."

HP: Been there, done that?

Ganthier said he heard the March 16 Cisco presentation introducing the new initiative, which brings in a number of partners (such as EMC, Microsoft, VMware, BMC and Accenture) to handle various parts of the UCS solutions. Cisco is providing the network infrastructure-plus a new network-centric server called the B-Class and some associated services-to sell to enterprises that are planning to refurbish their aging data centers.

"We thought, 'Nice event, but we're delivering today what they promise tomorrow,'" Ganthier told eWEEK.

"Most people I know are saying, 'HP stepping into an adjacency area such as networking-which we've done successfully with both ProCurve and VirtualConnect-well, that seems rather doable,' " Ganthier said. "But Cisco stepping into an adjacent area, such as storage or servers, and not addressing any of the other value chain or life-cycle aspects? That's a little bit harder to basically do the leap of faith on."

Cisco's new UCS strategy also appears to be a lock-in for Cisco and its partners, Ganthier said.

"The way that Cisco portrayed this thing, it's one server, one OS, one management piece, one chunk of storage," Ganthier said. "Remember the movie '2001: A Space Odyssey'?  It reminded me of the big 1 by 4 by 9 monolithic block. That is, that everything is predefined, prebuilt for you. What if somebody wants to take a different hypervisor? Or a different management construct? Cisco has already pretty much pre-chosen a lot of the components for you. Our belief is that you should have a choice."

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on Salesforce.com and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and DevX.com and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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