Will Liquid Computing pour cold water over Cisco's ambitious unified computing system?

With Cisco losing market share across the board, it just might be possible

Vik Desai - President and Chief Executive Officer of unified computing infrastructure vendor - Liquid Computing, describes below in the following Q & A session his complete "data center in a chassis" blade system. Interestingly, Desai previously served as Chief Operating Officer of Radware (NASDAQ: RDWR), where he led the company to $400M of market cap growth and a 140% increase in shareholder equity. Network World readers may recall that Radware recently purchased Nortel's application delivery business (Alteon) for the cut-rate price of $18 million. Amazingly just 9 years earlier, Nortel had purchased Alteon for $7.8 billion. Earlier this month, Network World's Data Center Derby story acknowledged Liquid's first-mover advantage with its unified data center concept having had time to build up a multisourcing capability and community effort around its core technology. With Cisco losing market share across the board, I thought it was an opportune time to find out from Desai how Liquid intends to pour cold water over Cisco's ambitious unified computing system: 1. Cisco made a lot of noise about its unified computing system (UCS) back in March. Please describe what Liquid Computing means by a UCS?

Vik Desai: Liquid Computing's definition of unified computing (LiquidIQ) is a flexible, standards-based and secure system that enables complete software-based control of all application IT infrastructure, including servers, networking, and storage. By standards-based, we mean that the system should be able to run out-of-the-box standard operating environments - whether bare metal or virtualized - without the need for any special software or other proprietary technologies from the UCS provider.

How LiquidIQ Works: Source: Liquid Computing

2. What's the difference between Cisco's approach and Liquid Computing's approach to UCS?

Vik Desai: The difference between LiquidIQ and anybody else in the market today - including Cisco - is one of a) standards, b) maturity, and c) perspective. With regard to standards, LiquidIQ is a completely open solution that can support any combination of standard operating systems or virtual environments. This means that it can be seamlessly installed within any data center, and doesn’t require any special or proprietary drivers that can compromise the integrity of application performance. As an example, LiquidIQ is the only UCS system that's listed by VMware to support VSphere, VApp, and ESX as well as operating systems and applications from Microsoft, Oracle, and Red Hat. As for maturity, while other players are just announcing, we recently released our 6th major version. Over time, one of the big lessons that others have yet to learn is that customers don’t want a proprietary solution. LiquidIQ is the only standards-based unified computing solution that’s in production today with paying customers, whereas our competitors are just talking about what they'll deliver in the future based on closed, proprietary systems. Finally, as related to perspective, we’re not a giant networking or computer manufacturer trying to morph from one market space into another. We've built our solution from the ground up with a focus on solving real data center issues. Our vision has been clear from day one: to eliminate the bottlenecks and inefficiencies associated with the way infrastructure has been designed since the 1980s. Let me give you an example: Cisco and HP may think that simply connecting to storage resources is "good enough," whereas we understand that a proper system must be able to provision, manage and control storage. Likewise, solutions that serve to further lock customers into a vendor's own servers, switches and even storage components is good for the vendor, but not the customer.

LiquidIQ Technical Specifications: Source: Liquid Computing 3. Who are the players in the UCS market besides Cisco and Liquid Computing?

Vik Desai: There are three players that are either in the game now or have pre-announced that they will enter the space: Cisco, HP and Liquid Computing. If you consider our definition of UCS as valid, then the fundamental aspects of each system from HP and Cisco disqualifies them from being considered a true UCS. As both systems lock customers in to their respective product lines, neither can manage storage resources, and HP can’t manage networking.

4. What are the primary drivers of the UCS market?

Vik Desai: In the move towards public and private cloud service models, today's data center architecture, which was designed more than 25 years ago, can't keep pace with business. Administrative costs continue to climb as corporations rely on highly serialized, complex manual processes to configure physical infrastructure in response to changing business demand. While new approaches, such as virtualization, promise to yield increased speed and efficiency, these technologies are still hampered in the end by the old infrastructure design. A complete UCS solves these inefficiencies through the introduction of software that enables "fly by wire" command and control of application infrastructure, allowing data center staff to focus on higher level issues. The business benefits are realized by being able to simultaneously move more nimbly while driving down the time and cost associated with managing IT resources.

LiquidIQ Total Software Control - LiquidView Management: Source: Liquid Computing Source: Liquid Computing 5. What are the current and future challenges of UCS?

Vik Desai: As is the case with virtualization or any game-changing technology, organizations sometimes hesitate to initiate change, even if taking those steps can deliver significant and justifiable cost or performance benefits. This is exactly why we think it’s absolutely critical that a UCS supports open standards and existing operating environments, whether bare metal or virtualized, in order to drive adoption. By doing so, customers can seamlessly move applications to a UCS without incurring cost, risk, and delays associated with migration to a new platform. Rather than "rip and replace," many of our customers are deploying our UCS for a specific application. Once they see the benefits, they are more eager to roll it out into other areas of their operations. Security is another issue that is conspicuously missing in all of the marketing hype around UCS. To provide the high levels of control and flexibility, unified computing essentially virtualizes all of the hardware – servers, networking, and storage – and stores all of the information as "bits on a disk." This makes the system more flexible and easier to manage, but also introduces new security risks. Unlike Cisco’s UCS, LiquidIQ was designed with built-in security and reliability by leveraging technology adopted from the telecommunications industry.

As shown below, LiquidIQ can consolidate functions including web, application and database servers along with firewalls: Source: Liquid Computing 6. Liquid Computing's UCS addresses which critical issues in the data center?

Vik Desai: While the applications for LiquidIQ vary, the common thread between all of our customers is that they’re undergoing a shift in their business that requires a new way of doing things. As an example, moving towards cloud service models requires service providers to rapidly scale up or scale down in response to business demand. But since application infrastructure can take weeks or months to provision, providers are forced to set up infrastructure "just in case," driving up costs. Our UCS reduces setup times to minutes, enabling these customers to scale their infrastructure "just in time," reducing administrative costs and ensuring that operating costs align with business growth.

LiquidIQ Business Continuity - Disaster Recovery Made Simple: Source: Liquid Computing 7. Once Cisco puts its mind to something, it eventually gets it right over time (unfortunately network management has not been one of them). How much lead time does Liquid Computing have over Cisco pertaining to UCS?

Vik Desai: I respect Cisco's ability to focus and execute when they discover a multibillion dollar market. They need to do it now, and I've been told by several sources that they know Liquid Computing is quite a bit ahead. We obviously don’t have access to each other's R&D plans or product road maps. However, based on what Cisco has put on the table, it's clear that Liquid's current sixth release product will have been shipping and in production for more than a year in advance of the arrival of Cisco's first UCS release. Our current product does a whole lot more than their first release plans to do whenever that GA date does finally arrive. Of course in the interim, we are continuing to work on our next release, incorporating new capabilities based on the feedback we get from our customers.

8. How will Liquid Computing out innovate Cisco?

Vik Desai: At the heart of every company that has proven to be an agent of change and market leader, from little MCI versus goliath AT&T (and by the way, I'm quite proud to have been part of that MCI team) to young Cisco versus IBM, the victor had an intense passion and devotion to resolving important customer problems in real-time. Liquid Computing will win by listening to what's keeping our customers up at night, and by thinking about how to solve these problems in new ways, unencumbered by the need to push closed solutions that are designed by vendors fighting over market share.

10. How can Liquid Computing survive and thrive when it appears Network World may have already written Liquid's death notice in its Data Center Derby story?

Vik Desai: I didn't quite read that level of drama into the Network World article, although I did see a statement of the obvious that "Some data centers won't take the risk on the longevity and survivability of a start-up." There's a shocker! But seriously, similarly valid statements could also be made that "some data centers won't take the risk of buying a computing system from a switching company," or that "some data centers won't want to be locked into a single vendor solution." What the article made clear is that Liquid Computing has the first mover advantage and is the most mature solution available today. We are just at the beginning of the UCS market and it is premature to try predict the winners and losers. The fact is, we have real paying customers in production right now and a clear strategy for driving our business and technology forward, so we’re confident we’ll be in the market in the long run.

Source: Network World

What's your take, does Liquid Computing have a chance against Cisco? BradReese.Com Cisco Refurbished - Services that protect, maintain and optimize Cisco hardware Contact: Brad Reese | Twitter: http://twitter.com/BradReese

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