IBM Throws a Pebble at Cisco UCS; Buys Blade Networks

In the wake of increasing competition from the likes of Cisco, HP, vEMC (VMware plus EMC), IBM responds by purchasing Blade Networks.  For those who have never heard of Blade Networks, Blade was mercifully spun out of Nortel Networks and has hundreds of customers and several hardware OEM deals.  Coincidentally, I think not, Blade has been a long time partner of both IBM and IBM/Netezza.

After years of transforming themselves into a software/services company, IBM is being forced back into the networking business.   While some have postulated that “IBM has turned their back on Juniper Networks”, the reality is Juniper’s baggage may be too big for even IBM to swallow.  Additionally, IBM’s purchase of Blade Networks is a pebble across the bow of Cisco and will do little to anger one of their most strategic partners.

Blade gives IBM a converged networking fabric company while eliminating their competitors from Blade’s technology; namely HP, NEC, and SGI.  Additionally, Blade provides IBM a way to ‘dip their toe in the water’ to see if the market, customers, and partners approve of this new direction.  If IBM is truly looking to challenge UCS or Matrix, then they need additional pieces to this puzzle.

What IBM needs is a new platform ala Cisco UCS that eliminates the baggage of the original blade systems; optimized for density and space.  They must examine how to better integrate their storage platforms with their blades using FCoE and perhaps should look towards a true Multi-Hop FCoE solution.  They must revolutionize virtualization and I/O as perhaps no one else on this planet has the experience, patents, and real world deployments as IBM.  Finally, IBM has the opportunity to rethink management by acquiring, integrating, and refining their current solutions.

If IBM needs a little inspiration, then they can look to their long time bitter enemy Oracle.  While virtualization, fabrics, networking, server chassis, and storage is interesting, applications are still king.  Oracle’s vision is clear; you can run our apps on any server or virtualization platform you want, but it just runs better on Oracle.

The last time I checked, IBM is still Big Blue and they have an arsenal of technology at their disposal.  The question is  ‘if’ and ‘when’ IBM will wake from their slumber and lead the industry once again.  Aside from a blockbuster merger between IBM and Cisco, … hey, one can dream… your move Dell.

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