Cisco touts collaboration as way to transform data centers

Cisco wants to deepen EMC, VMware relationships and would like to further embrace reluctant IBM, Chambers said

Cisco offered its vision of where the industry is going and how it will get there to 11,000 customers and other attendees at the CiscoLive! conference this week.

The theme of the conference was "the power of collaboration", and Cisco demonstrated how its existing and future virtualization, visualization and unified communications products and technologies can help people share ideas globally to better innovate or attain business goals. Cisco also used the conference as a coming out party for its new CTO, Padmasree Warrior, and kicked off the event by fleshing out its Data Center 3.0 strategy.

"Ideas get stronger when they are shared," Warrior said during her keynote address. "When 'I' becomes 'we,' we can change the world."

Cisco CEO John Chambers shared some ideas during a roundtable discussion with the media, particularly around Cisco's data center plans -- and apparent lack of plans.

Chambers said it's not incumbent upon Cisco to own a company like VMware or a significant vendor as it broadens its presence in the data center. He essentially dismissed speculation that Cisco would make a run at storage titan EMC or virtualization software vendor VMware, of which EMC owns 86 per cent, as it deepens its penetration into the data center.

"Our ideal acquisition is 100 engineers with a product just about to come to market," Chambers said. "Margins aren't good in storage devices."

Cisco will, however, deepen its relationships with data center stalwarts such as EMC and VMware, and would like to do the same with IBM, Chambers said. IBM has been reluctant to partner more tightly with Cisco in the data center, he said, perhaps due to its broadening ambitions and competitive challenge.

"We're still at the altar," Chambers said. "We think [a tighter IBM/Cisco partnership] is in the best interests of employees, shareholders and customers" not only in the data center, but in the home and with service providers. "We want to make the pie bigger instead of smaller."

Chambers said Cisco's partnership with Microsoft is a model worth emulating. The companies acknowledge each other's ubiquity in the network and on the desktop and maintain interoperability, but also compete hotly in areas like unified communications.

As for the data center transformation opportunity -- virtualizing resources and converging them onto a single network -- Chambers says he's not sure whether Cisco's larger opportunity is in greenfield or legacy data centers immersed in infrastructure that outdates Cisco.

"We'll play aggressively in both," he said. "But the traditional players have not brought innovation [to the data center] in years."

Cisco attempted to bring innovation to the data center last week by fleshing out its Data Center 3.0 transformation strategy with enhancements to its Application Control Engine application acceleration, Wide Area Application Services and VFrame Data Center orchestration appliances, and unveiling professional services offerings.

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Jim Duffy

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