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Sources involved in and briefed on California say the new Cisco data-center blade servers will run BMC software that is key to Cisco's unified-computing concept of tightly integrating computing and network resources. Specifically, the software will reprovision network resources when virtual machine workloads are moved around.
Generally, BMC will be supplying a key piece of the management and computing intelligence in California, the sources say, who requested anonymity.
BMC and Cisco declined to comment.
Expected in January, California might be Cisco's most significant product in years. It will take the networking giant into the data-center computing realm, which partners -- and soon to be rivals -- IBM and HP have owned for decades.
California also underscores how strategic control of data-center computing is to Cisco as it looks to enter adjacent markets beyond networking for growth. Indeed, Cisco CEO John Chamber has said repeatedly that the company's ambition is to become a global provider of IT -- not just networking.
BMC is so strategic to California, and California so strategic to Cisco that Cisco may look to acquire all or parts of the systems-management company, sources say.
"If they could bolster their data center story by acquiring BMC, they would," said one source. "It's always on the radar."
That would ratchet the imminent competition among Cisco and HP and IBM even higher as BMC also competes with the systems management capabilities of those companies in controlling data center operations.
HP, for one, isn't taking it lying down. In January, the company's ProCurve networking unit, which increasingly is gaining share in Ethernet switching, plans to unveil a branch-office routing system to take on Cisco's Integrated Services Router (ISR), sources say.
The system will feature a switching architecture with branch routing modules, and services capabilities from partner companies: Avaya for VoIP unified communications; Riverbed Technology for WAN optimization; Microsoft Office Communications Server; and McAfee security, sources say.
"They don't have a viable branch story" to date, one source says about HP ProCurve, which is becoming more tightly aligned with HP's Technology Solutions Group. "This will be a response to 'California'."
HP ProCurve declined to comment.
HP ProCurve is now the clear No. 2 vendor in Ethernet switching behind Cisco. The company's revenue share grew 9% in the third quarter, according to Dell'Oro Group. In 2007, HP ProCurve 's share grew to 4.8% from 3.8% in 2006.
Cisco still owns more than 70% of the Ethernet switching market, Dell'Oro says.
Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.