Cisco Servers? Seriously?

I’ve been hearing this rumor for a while now that Cisco is getting into the blade server business.  I’m having a hard time with this being a smart move but I can see the reasoning.  Om posted about the latest rumors today and I think he hits on some important points.

It’s not like making servers (well, lets be honest and call it rebranding) is new to Cisco.  They’ve been selling CallManager, Unity, ACS and various other servers for years.  They started putting Pico-ITX size (I think) PC’s on NetMods for the ISR routers years ago as well.  The NM PC’s are probably the closest thing they have to blade servers.  In general these devices have done pretty well although I’d argue that Cisco hasn’t maximized their potential.  Still, going from a single NM in a router to a blade chassis with specific cooling, SAN and addressing requirements is a pretty big jump.

What’s Cisco hope to gain?  I think the question should be more like, what do they stand to lose?  Everything I’ve heard about Cisco’s entry into the data center, mostly the Nexus platform, is that it’s been slow going.  They haven’t been able to get the penetration they want.  I don’t think that’s especially surprising as that market was already somewhat mature and had several niche players leading it.  No, my guess is that they expected it to be a slow start, just not as slow as it’s been.  This is the usual problem for Cisco.  They are seen as a networking company, not an “everything to IT” company.  The server guys look at Cisco as “that networking stuff that I have to have.”  They don’t really like dealing with the network jockey.  If Cisco really does come out with a blade server it’ll be derided as Ver. 1 gear and not mature enough for production use.  And that’ll be somewhat true.

Something to remember though is that Cisco did this before.  About 10 years ago they decided to step on the voice guys toes.  It took a while and they had some real pain in the beginning but look at where things are now.  Who’s bankrupt?

Speaking of voice, is it just me or does it seem Cisco has decided on an incremental growth strategy for their voice platform?  There’s a distinct feeling of a lack of attention on the voice product.  I’m excluding the telepresence stuff from that as it’s so damn expensive.

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