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!

Defending Microsoft and Offering a Commentary on Google vs. China

Some of my closest friends and colleagues will find it ironic, yet again, that I am compelled to write a blog post defending Microsoft.  After all, I have been engaged in a computing project aimed at removing all commercial software from a computer’s image.  Alas, that is a different story, but I will happily report that there is definitely a bright light for technologists but not for the average Joe.

However, once again Microsoft is on the defensive about their products and policies.  As an example, let’s talk about Bing.  While Bing is an innovative “new” Internet search engine, analysts and writers are preoccupied by its position as the number two search engine in the market (including Yahoo).  Everyone wants to know how Microsoft is going to catch Google and become the number one search engine.  Why?  Does anyone think that Microsoft was going to catch Google overnight?  Does anyone believe that Internet search is capturing quality results across all the billions of pages on the Internet?  What about Facebook?

Internet search is destined to become like the Walkman™; supplanted by something more innovative and useful.  What!  Are you kidding me?  In the early days, Internet search was a battle of relevance and content.  Google won the initial search wars by creating an interface that was clean, fast, and was able to crawl a significantly larger percentage of the Internet.  Today, Internet search is filled with hundreds (millions) of pages ranked by relevance, key words, advertisements, and more.  Other than me, who flips to page 8 of their search results?  Furthermore, how many of us are surprised when a friend, stranger, etc. provides us with a new and exciting website on a topic you covet that you never new existed?  Unfortunately, the current paradigm forces us to re-visit the same set of websites over-and-over again while using search as more of a research or curiosity tool. 

In the end, Microsoft should be applauded for attempting to innovate in a space that has been virtually unchanged for years.  Instead, Microsoft is bombarded with the same old questions about Google’s search dominance.  Of course, I am not sure that the innovation will come from the likes of Microsoft or Google, but from the garages, dorm rooms, and coffee houses across the globe.  Does anyone remember a few years ago when Palm was all the rage?  How about MySpace?  Or, the fears that Apple was dying?  Do you remember your first slick Nokia Phone, where is it now?

On a side note, this is not a political blog, yet I feel compelled to comment about the Google vs. China Internet mess.  There are two very different sides to this story; business and personal.  On a business note, Google is an international business “baby” with limited experience and a certain naivety about how they deal with in-country and international laws.  China is a sovereign nation that has the ability to pass and enforce their own laws regardless of their political system.  If Google, or any corporation, does not like China’s laws, then leave.  Perhaps if the West was not so obsessed with spreadsheets and bottom-line results, then China would not be the manufacturing powerhouse and money making machine that they are today.  Microsoft is making the correct business decision by staying in China, offering an alternative, albeit censored, to Baidu.

On a personal note, I agree with Google’s moves as censorship has no place in today’s world.  Someday, people across the globe will rise up to this evil practice of censuring information for the good of controlling people.  However, doesn’t the mere presence of Internet companies such as Google or Microsoft offer people hope?  It certainly is a complicated issue as my prior statement alone causes conflict and contradiction.

Hey…You…Thanks!

While we expect our favorite athletes to know the history of their respective sports and teams and to pay homage to the great ones who came before them, why don’t we do the same within technology? In fact, it’s easier to figure out who holds most sports records than it is to find out who invented IPSEC. I too am guilty of taking for granted the contributions of those who worked for R&D powerhouses such as BBN Planet, DARPA, and Bell Labs.

Within technology, there continues to be debates and disputes over who “the father of” or the “inventor of” a particular technology is. It is not my intent to join this debate, but to give my thanks and gratitude to those whose contributions have changed our industry and our lives.

  • Bob Metcalfe – Father of Ethernet
  • Vinton Cerf AND Robert Kahn – TCP/IP Co-Designers 
  •  William Yeager – Creator of Multi-protocol Router
  • Vic Hayes – Father of Wi-Fi
  • Sven Mattisson and Jaap Haartsen – Inventors of Bluetooth
  • Nir Zuk, William Cheswick, Steven Bellovin, Marcus Ranum , and more- Fathers of the Firewall
  • Stehpen Kent – Inventor of IPSEC
  • Taher Elgamal – inventor of SSL
  • Vinod Bhardwaj – Father of Ethernet Switching
  • Bernard Daines – Father of Gigabit Ethernet
  • Rouzbeh Yassini – Father of the Cable Modem
  • Joseph W. Lechleitter – Inventor of DSL Modem
  • William Moggridge – Inventor of the Laptop
  • John Ansoff, Konrad Zuse, John Mauchly, Presper Eckert, and more – Inventors of the Computer

Three Cheers: Microsoft, Cloud Computing, T. Boone Pickens

Microsoft:  Microsoft earns consecutive “Three Cheers” honors by becoming a platinum sponsor of the Apache Software Foundation.  Sam Ramji, Microsoft’s OSS Guru, announced this at OSCon while wearing a Firefox T-shirt; nice.  Besides becoming ASF’s third Platinum Sponsor, Microsoft also contributed a patch to the ADOdb.  Whether or not the OSS community likes it or not, Microsoft is a player with both their development talent and wallets; after all the ASF cannot survive on idealism alone.  Perhaps it is time for Microsoft to drop their claims to Linux patents and really join the OSS community!

Cloud Computing:  This week’s buzz marketing concept is “cloud computing.”   If you crave analyst, media, and venture capital attention, then why not become a cloud computing company or start-up?  This week alone Yahoo, HP, and Intel launched the Cloud Computing Test Bed while IBM has announced their ninth Cloud Computing Center in Tokyo.  News media and analyst tout the new technology as the wave of the future providing for life changing applications.  It’s too bad that the technology isn’t ready and the applications are far from “life changing.”  Perhaps it’s time for the hype to be replaced with reality and investors to remember the bubble!

T. Boone Pickens:  Billionaire T. Boone Pickens voted with his wallet as he dumped his holdings in Yahoo. Mr. Pickens was rightfully upset about Yahoo’s “pathetic” management and their dealings with Microsoft.  Yahoo’s brain trust must have failed mathematics as they deemed Microsoft’s $33 per share take-over offer as inadequate yet Yahoo now trades at under $20 a share.  Perhaps it’s time for large and small investors join T. Boone Pickens in reminding the executives of public companies who is boss; the shareholders!

Three Cheers: Juniper, Microsoft, Brocade

Juniper:  Juniper says good-bye to outgoing CEO Scott Kriens and hello to new CEO Kevin Johnson.  While Mr. Kriens has done a great job in getting Juniper to a $3 Billion company in 12 years, he has yet to “crack the code” on beating Cisco on their home turf; enterprise customers.  Juniper needs new leadership to push their vision, innovation, and to speed the development of new products.  Perhaps it’s time for Juniper to stop chasing Moby Dick! 

Microsoft:  Microsoft shows true vision by purchasing DATAllegro and advancing massively parallel processing (MPP).  Microsoft’s purchase should be a warning to established MPP vendors such as Teradata while newcomers such as Aster Data may have awoken the sleeping giant.  Finally, Microsoft’s decision may push Oracle into MPP as a follower not a leader.  Perhaps it’s time for Microsoft to get some credit for “non-Google” thoughts!

Brocade:  Brocade’s $3 Billion purchase of Foundry Networks is both gutsy and a gamble.  Brocade’s dominance in storage networking combined with Foundry’s IP centric product line could spell trouble for Cisco.  Additionally, Foundry may have finally found shelter and breathing room from Juniper but will Bobby Johnson (Foundry CEO) finally give up control and allow Foundry to follow new leadership and go in a new direction?  This purchase signals the opening salvo in the battle for the next generation datacenter with plenty more to come.  Perhaps it’s time for Brocade to stand-up to the King!

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