Cisco planning significant data center assault

Cisco Blade servers, green switches and collaboration on tap as company morphs into overall IT giant

In addition, it is expected to support Cisco's unified fabric, which supports multiple data-center traffic types over a single Ethernet host bus adapter, data-center automation tools and deep integration with VMware Infrastructure.

Cisco, meanwhile, believes there are areas within the data center beyond networking where it can iron out "seams" of technology between servers, switches and storage devices, says John McCool, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Data Center Switching and Services group.

"I can't comment on unannounced product," McCool says about California.

"I would say though that you see with what we've done with the (Nexus) 1000V -- the interesting things now are happening at the seams of technology. Obviously, we represent the networking component. But you have a virtualization layer that's now emerged in data centers and you have compute.

"We're very much interested in making the whole environment -- we call it unified computing -- a homogeneous environment by making those seams not look like gaps in IT," McCool says.

Cisco's Nexus 1000V is a software switch that runs on multivendor servers. It takes a virtual machine's (VM) network and security properties with it while the VM is moved around the data center.

McCool was philosophical about the potential impact Cisco's data center expansion will have on current partners.

"We see such a shift in the technology landscape with virtualization that it's creating a new set of challenges that have to be innovated," he says. "I'm sure those companies are looking at their own vectors of innovation on how to address this. Change brings challenges; challenges hopefully brings innovation. We've decided to embrace the challenge and believe that we can innovate.

"I would think the nature of partnerships in general is going to change," McCool says. "I think the nature of large organizations, especially solving customer problems, there's going to be a little bit of overlap, a little bit of collaboration."

Analysts say the company's overall IT ambitions will be Cisco's most daunting hurdle in the coming year.

"Can they really make the credible transition to an IT vendor from a networking vendor?" asks Zeus Kerravala of The Yankee Group. "That is their absolute biggest challenge because that gets them into a whole different set of buying criteria."

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