Three Cheers: Cisco Unleashes a UCS Surprise with ‘xBlocks’

With today’s webcast and subsequent announcements, Cisco showed their continued focus and commitment to the UCS platform.  The results are breathtaking; a new B230 M1 ½ blade with 16 cores and 2048/4096GB of memory, a new Nexus 5500 series that doubles the port density of the previous generation 1U models for up to 960Gbps of throughput, and virtual appliances for both Virtual Security and WAAS.  Perhaps the most interesting announcement of the webcast focused on VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) sporting a partnership between Cisco, Citrix, and NetApp that I’m dubbing xBlocks.

Like vBlocks, xBlocks maintain their own Reference Architecture that was jointly developed by Citrix and NetApp and validated by Cisco as a CVD (Cisco Validated Design).  Unlike vBlocks, xBlocks shed VMware for Citrix and offer an implementation based on Citrix’s XenDesktop infrastructure.  Additionally EMC is swapped for NetApp as they are the perfect non-competitive complement to Citrix.

While Cisco is heavily invested in VMware, this announcement demonstrates Cisco’s desire to broaden the UCS audience.  Of course, this isn’t the first time Cisco has ventured from VMware’s path as in June of 2010 Cisco announced a strengthening of their relationship with Red Hat and their KVM hypervisor.

Finally, Cisco confirmed 1700 UCS customers worldwide with 200 Unified Computing Authorized Technology Providers (ATP).  This means that Cisco almost doubled the total number of UCS customers from the quarter before.  If anyone doubted Cisco’s ability to disrupt the server market, then these numbers clearly demonstrate that Cisco is succeeding at an alarming rate to their competitors.

Is Cisco blowing up the old notion that innovation only comes from start-ups or small companies?  Are Chambers’ course corrections leading to a right hand turn and the complete transformation of an industry giant?  Is HP focused on this market or are they too busy buying and integrating companies?  Is Larry pacing his mansion contemplating how to leverage Sun to get into this fight?

Three cheers to Cisco:  innovators without baggage, partnerships without exclusivity, and a platform that is breathtaking.  What’s next, I can’t wait!

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