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3/18/2010
10:50 AM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Branding Brilliance Behind Cisco's Borderless Networks

Our Server Den columnist says that Cisco is smartly encapsulating the deep technology of next-gen networks supporting mobile workers and streaming video, but Juniper and HP ProCurve won't stand idly by.

Finally, there's QoS, or quality of service. In the old days (like, a few years ago), you didn't have to worry about this on a global basis, because dropped packets could be resent and data could be reassembled in the proper sequence. Now, though, with voice and video, dropped words and pictures are a no-no, not only because they annoy people -- "can you hear me now?"-- but because they spotlight the network opposite of an unintended acceleration problem. Thus, QoS has to become more deeply embedded in network processes to assure that video streams properly.

Whew? Got your arms around all that? (For the lay folks to whom the TV commercials are meant to appeal, the appropriate question would be, bored yet?) Well, the important take-away is that all this stuff I've just described is part of Cisco's Borderless Networks announcement.

So the technical meat is really there. However, I have to say that this part of the story doesn't surprise me, nor does it earn Cisco sole industry kudos. By this I mean that, however good its products and strategies are, other companies are doing this stuff, or on the path toward doing this stuff, too. (In that regard, see my column, Server Den: Juniper Fires Back At Cisco CRS-3.)

Cisco's real brilliance, and the thing for which I give Chambers props, is its packaging of all this technology under the "Borderless Networks" umbrella. It's very smart, as smart in its own way as has been Cisco's combining a server and switch in a cabinet and calling it a Unified Computing System (UCS).

Let me take the packaging connection one step further. Consider how disruptive UCS has been, in a market sense, to the traditional server business. (Don’t take my word, Gartner says so.) Previously, HP, IBM, Dell, and Sun (now Oracle) had pretty much locked down the rules under which they competed--technology to technology, price to price, feature to feature. Sure, maybe there was some tough marketing talk, but you could slip a thin paper shim between the different messages.

Along came Cisco, and it refused to play. Cisco up-ended the messaging, telling customers to forget about all this old fangled best-of-breed stuff, and instead come buy an easy-to-wrap-your-brain-around, one-stop-shop bundle. Unified.

In reality, the mid game is nowhere near as simple as the early bump one gets from a disruptive market entry. For one thing, HP, IBM, and Dell are not chopped liver, and they don't sit back unresponsive to market threats. (For some recent perspective on this front, read Server Den: IBM Reloads Enterprise Branding.

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