Cisco Needs BMC To Supply Unified Virtual Management - InformationWeek

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Cisco Needs BMC To Supply Unified Virtual Management

At stake is Cisco's blade server, which will combine converged network components, then link to virtualized network and store resources under a single management interface.

Cisco's Unified Computing System

Cisco's Unified Computing System
(click for larger image)

Cisco is making a bet that it can master the art of blade manufacturing faster than blade makers, such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard, can move onto its switching turf. If it's right, the dominant networking vendor will have opened a major new market for itself and provided blade users with a new type of server, the Cisco Unified Computing System.

Even if it's wrong, the move is sure to shake up accepted blade designs and proliferate options, to the benefit of end users. Blades, a new form factor less than a decade old, now make up 20% of the server market, according to IDC. At stake is the possibility raised by Cisco that revamped blades -- one of the most profitable segments in servers -- can be combined with converged network components, then linked to virtualized network and storage resources under a single management interface.

Such a move promises to drive costs out of the data center by prompting more efficient utilization of devices at every level. It would also allow the benefits of virtualization to move beyond server consolidation into overall management of the data center as sets of pooled resources -- servers, networking, and storage -- potentially reducing IT operating costs. Cisco said the savings could amount to 35%.

But to accomplish all these goals, Cisco will have to bring a new type of blade to market, one that relies on a 10 Gigabit Ethernet fabric to feed I/O to both storage and networking devices. The idea isn't completely new. Since January HP has offered BladeSystem with Virtual Connect Flex-10, which divides overall I/O between the enterprise network and iSCSI storage. Gary Thome, director of strategy for HP's blade and infrastructure software unit, said HP customers won't have to wait for a new management interface to manage the two; it has one today in Insight Dynamics VSE. He claims Cisco is the "plumber" of network pipes, but HP is "the general contractor to build the whole house. We don't see the data center as a network with servers hanging off the end."

Burton Group analyst Nik Simpson said several blade manufacturers have today or soon will have the capacity to combine network traffic and storage data as a single stream coming off the blade to networking devices on the blade chassis. Cisco "incrementally goes a little further" in its ability to achieve the convergence."

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