Cisco considered HP and IBM as blade server partners for its new Unified Computing System, which is designed as a single architecture for data center computing, storage, networking and virtualization. Cisco marketing vice president David Lawler said the company "did have conversations" with HP and IBM about multiple technologies, like unified fabric and the Nexus 1000V virtual switch, which is believed to be an element within UCS.
But "a tighter binding (of the blade server) to the fabric necessitated a new development," Lawler says.
At the same time, Lawler says UCS will not accept blade servers from other vendors like HP and IBM. Nor will the Cisco-developed blade server within UCS work in any other vendors' data center unification or consolidation platform.
"Other vendors' solutions will not work because (UCS is) a single unified system," he says. "And we're not developing blades for other (vendors') platforms."
The reason, Cisco says, is that its UCS B-Series blades offer patented techniques for extending memory to support applications with large data sets, allowing more virtual machines per server, and other goodies. The B-Series blades are based on the future Intel Nehalem processor families, the next generation of Intel's Xeon processor.
Analysts say Cisco's biggest challenge will be in selling the UCS to customers who have traditionally bought blade servers from HP, IBM, Dell and others entrenched in that market.
"Server buyers don't have a relationships with Cisco," says James Staten of Forrester Research. "It will be tough to convince them of the need for another player in this market."
"The challenge will be around customers' organizational structures, customer buy-in," says Zeus Kerravala of the Yankee Group. "We've never seen them go after different customers before, they've always leveraged existing (customer) relationships."
Lawler acknowledges that Cisco will have its work cut out for it in selling and gaining market acceptance for UCS.
"Cisco historically reacts to market transitions," he says. "It takes people, in general, a while to understand that the model has changed. The proof is in the pudding of the early adopters."
Meanwhile, Cisco's Network Management Technology Group, which is currently undergoing some outsourcing activity, was not involved in the development of UCS Manager, a system for controlling all UCS system configuration and operations, including defining service profiles for applications. The management system was developed by the Nuova data center switching group within Cisco, Lawler says.