Cisco to clash head on with HP in server move

Traditionally a networking company, Cisco’s much-anticipated move into the server sector will ruffle a few feathers in the industry.

Cisco has confirmed that it will be entering the server market placing it in direct competition with companies like HP, IBM and Dell.

Under the Unified Computing' banner, Cisco has now moved itself into a position against companies who have traditionally cornered the server market.

It has also collected partners among the likes of Intel, VMWare, EMC and Microsoft in what Cisco's chief executive John Chambers claimed was a game changing' move.

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With new UCS B-Series blades, based on Intel Nehalem processors, Cisco will now directly compete with long-standing partners like HP and IBM.

Philip Dawson, an analyst at Gartner, said he believed that the move was firmly targeted against HP, which was trying to make moves into networking with its ProCurve business.

"In the current climate, it's interesting how Cisco have entered the market. It will allow them to kick the tyres [of its competition] a little bit, and try and get successful," he said.

"When it gets a foundation and the market hopefully recovers, that allows it to have done the donkey work and take advantage."

Cisco said it would be unifying the data centre', which it says will integrate computer servers with the network as well as computing, storage access and virtualisation.

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However, Dawson believed that although Cisco had an advantage with its network expertise, the Achilles' heel could be the fact it was so dependent on storage partners like EMC.

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He said: "That is a lot of hardware dollars it is giving to third parties."

Douglas Gourlay, vice president of data centre solutions at Cisco, said that virtualisation was the main reason why it could now announce its move at this stage.

He said it made testing thousands of applications that was a barrier to opening up systems much less necessary, and made workloads portable, even across vendors.

Paul Maritz, chief executive of VMWare, agreed: "It will really accelerate the trend towards large scale virtualisation."

Gartner analyst Dawson said that Cisco's big focus toward virtualisation was a way to give its new offering a main focus, and that Cisco's move was both acknowledgement and support of its potential. It also explained Intel's role: "As Intel becomes more multi-core, virtualisation allows the badly written apps to work on the cores."

He also said that the endorsements by Microsoft and VMWare added value to Cisco's move.

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When chief executive John Chambers was asked whether unified computing would disrupt' the market when it came companies like HP and IBM, which would now be major rivals, he would only say that the announcement was "game changing" and that the market was at a point where it needed "transition".

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