Cisco UCS: Let the war begin

Over the past few days, I’ve been reading about the revolutionary nature of Cisco’s datacenter 3.0 strategy. I’ve read everything from “a sharp turn” to “Cisco will shake up the market.” The reality, is Cisco has crossed the demilitarized zone between hardware and server vendors and the war has just begun.

It is clear that BMC is Cisco’s new management vendor of choice displacing HP (Opsware). While BMC has tier I products such as Remedy and BladeLogic, they aren’t particularly strong in network or storage management. Furthermore, it is not clear what are the capabilities of Cisco’s new UCS Manager nor to what degree BMC has integrated their offerings.

Additionally, Intel is walking a fine line by throwing their considerable weight behind Cisco’s UCS-B blade server. After all, who pays the bills at Intel; Cisco or HP, Dell, and IBM. While the Nehalem servers are set to anchor Intel’s push into the datacenter, they’ll need more than Cisco to reap the rewards of such an innovative design.

In the short-term, HP is clearly positioned to be a thorn in Cisco’s side. HP has awesome server products, a full line of storage products, decent networking capabilities, full management functionality, and EDS. In the long-term, IBM’s deep pockets combined with smart M&A activity could derail Cisco’s plans. Juniper may be a tantalizing pick-up, but IBM could yield positive results by purchasing smaller players such as Brocade, Woven Systems, or Arista Networks.

Finally, what will happen to Dell and Sun? Could Dell be shut-out of the next generation datacenter? How does an already weakened Sun survive Cisco’s attack? Will they seek shelter or come out swinging?

Cisco has fired the first shot that started the great datacenter war of 2009. It may take three years or more to declare the winners and losers, but one thing is for sure; IT will never be the same again.

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