Cisco in the data center: can it manage what it promises?

The Network Management Maven blog has an interesting discussion going on over whether Cisco really has the right stuff to be in the network management business, now that it acquired Tidal Software last week. The Tidal buy caused raised eyebrows among the network management industry. Cisco has been touting grand plans for the data center for ages (remember "Data Center 3.0"?) but its detractors liked to point out that Cisco didn't have the one thing it really needed -- management tools. The purchase of Tidal Software answers that, sort of. Tidal is known for its SOA management tools -- a lot of steps up the stack from the kinds of systems and network management that the likes of HP and IBM offer.

The blog says:

"'The future of hardware is smart hardware, not just equipment. What we are really talking about now is something that has the intelligence to adapt on its own,' says Glenn O'Donnell, senior analyst at Forrester Research. 'Cisco realizes if it wants to play a bigger role in the data center space that the company has to stop teasing and playing coy with its software strategy. Cisco is the new kid in town in the data center and will need a solid software strategy to go against HP and IBM.'"

The question stems from the fact that Cisco already has a partnership with BMC, and many have wondered if Cisco was testing the waters of an eventual acquisition of BMC, an option that would allow Cisco to more directly compete with Tivoli or OpenView. An SOA manager may give Cisco another puzzle piece for an eventual end-to-end solution, but come 'on ... many puzzle pieces do not automatically make a cohesive whole.

That is, of course, something that Cisco's competitor Brocade wants to point out. In a comment on the Network Management Maven blog, a Brocade spokesperson writes,

"The same can be said goes for all of [Cisco's] various 'pieces' of management software/solutions today. If you lay them end-to-end, they may indeed be an 'end-to-end management solution', but one segment manages routers, one segment manages switches, one segment manages phones, and none of the segments know each other, except in passing."

All of which leads the central question for customers. You may love Cisco's network gear, but does that mean you want Cisco to be your one-stop shop for all your technology, including your phones, data center servers, and management software? Probably not. Customers aren't looking for another one-stop technology shop like IBM, circa 1984. Even IBM isn't IBM anymore.

Posted by: Julie Bort, Cisco Subnet editor

Also see Can Cisco commit to management software?

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