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Cisco Launching Blade Servers in 2009 87

Posted by timothy
from the please-wear-eye-protection dept.
minutetraders writes "According to some sources, by next year Cisco Systems will be in the blade server business. ChannelWeb has a story, confirmed by several sources, that the San Jose, Calif.-based networking behemoth is readying blade servers, code-named California, for a release early next year. A blade server offering would put Cisco in direct competition with the likes of Dell, HP, and IBM, companies it partners with on their respective blade server offerings, for control of the enterprise data center."
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Cisco Launching Blade Servers in 2009

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  • linux (Score:4, Informative)

    by larry bagina (561269) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @05:43PM (#26226297) Journal

    a buddy of mine (who used to work for Cisco) says they'll be pushing linux, but offer windows if that's what the customer wants to pay for.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      your buddy is nuts unless he was refering to VMWare ESX(i) as the "linux" they will be pushing. Its not really a blade server as much as a whole system packaged together. I know I have sat through the VOD's internally on it :) Its going to change the game for the DC in ways that the others cant compete. They actually had Intel come to us to license some technology.

      Its a good time to be at Cisco.

      • by eharvill (991859)
        It is my understanding the will be working closely with VMWare, particularly around their NEXUS stuff and possibly having a specific Cisco/VMware cert. I am guessing it will take a good 12-18 months before they get any serious penetration in the server market.
      • by Junta (36770)

        It is a blade server offering. Just because it will be sold as a full stack with bundles ESX and other prescribed software doesn't mean the technology isn't at its core another server offering, no more than a processor ceases to become a processor because it is sold only in a whole system by anyone. This is important in evaluating the fundamental ability of others to compete.

        In terms of "changing the game in ways others can't compete", it sounds like some great pep rally morale speak, but in the end, full

        • While it's folly to write off Cisco in any market, there's a lot of competition that's both mature and ready to 'go to the mat' to retain marketshare. The only one I see vulnerable is Dell, as they can't seem to break into the NOCs heavily because they don't understand the NOC very well at all.

          Cisco has to also battle a lot of COGS, as they're not known to make things inexpensively, and worse, supporting systems infrastructure is different than supporting networking fabric. They also lack storage infrastruc

          • by pyite (140350)

            Uhm. It's common courtesy to expand an acronym the first time you use it. While I would normally assume that NOC means "Network Operations Center," it makes no sense in this context. And as for "COGS," I'm not sure where to begin.

  • delivery (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ChiefArcher (1753) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @05:50PM (#26226341) Homepage Journal

    If cisco delivered servers the way it delivers network gear:

      You will order your blades and get them 3 months later after harassing your rep over and over until they finally send them via VP signatures via a warehouse.

    When people want servers, they want them in days... not months.
    This can only end poorly.

    • Re:delivery (Score:5, Informative)

      by afidel (530433) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @06:02PM (#26226411)
      Your rep sucks, our orders both directly from Cisco and from CDW arrive in a normal timeframe of several days.
      • by ChiefArcher (1753)

        CDW usually has things in stock... But they aren't a gold partner.. If you want support, you'll have to go to your local cisco rep which will be pissed off because he didn't get the credit for selling you those things. Anywho.

        My problem tends to be not ordering products they just got released. my 4510-E's for the new office were delayed 6 months because of power supply problems and +E blade problems.

        The normal lead time on any 4948 or 4948-10G I order is 4-6 weeks. Also their normal products like ASA5510'

      • by yorugua (697900)
        >>Your rep sucks, our orders both directly from Cisco and from CDW arrive in a normal timeframe of several days.

        Well, I guess the thing is that CDW has its own stock of things they think are selling well, in order to have "happy customers" (c).

        I worked in replying RFP's from IT customers, and when replying those, we usually had to add the usual 60-day delivery time by Cisco in our repliess. We are not us-based, tough, YMMV, yadayadayada, but at least here and now, that's the way it works.

    • by dawich (945673)
      Interesting - the longest I've ever had to wait for Cisco gear was 3 weeks, and it's usually 4-5 days, but my vendor was Berbee. Now that CDW owns Berbee, it may change. I'd much rather speak to TAC with an issue than HP Support.
      • by kicker485 (846301)
        HP Support = People from Colorado I can understand that take a while to solve the issue, even after I've told them exactly what it is and how to reproduce it. Cisco Support = People from India or Mexico I can't understand that fix the problem quicker. I'll take the guy who understands the product that I can't understand any day
        • by afidel (530433)
          Get better HP contracts and it will be Atlanta and they won't mess around (especially with 6hr call to repair contracts, only about 20% more expensive than a normal 4hr onsite contract but they really seem to pay attention when you mention the 6hr ctr). Also I've yet to have a significant issue fixed by TAC India, my best luck has been with the Aussies.
    • by jo42 (227475)

      ...and they will be hugely overpriced.

    • Re:delivery (Score:4, Informative)

      by Rick Bentley (988595) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @11:00PM (#26227889) Homepage
      If Cisco builds servers the way it builds network gear:

      ...You will get a 1GHz P4 single core server for only $9,990. Unless, of course, you want the OS pack, antivirus pack, and browser pack, which pushes the prices to $23,486. Plus support contract. The software on it, however, will be quite nice, if a bit simple.

      The margins Cisco gets on HW is obscene (over 90%). I don't know what value they can add to blade servers to get anything like the margin they are used to.

      Yet, that won't stop some clueless VP of Engineering from saying "get the Cisco ones, they'll be more reliable".
    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      And yet, Cisco keeps making a profit and people keep buying Cisco and Cisco support contracts. They must be doing something right.

      I'm not saying I agree; I'm just saying it's working for them.

  • I am wondering whether there will be any role for Linux. But if there is any, then the politics of which distro CISCO chooses will be a subject of great and diverse opinion here at Slashdot. I can't wait.
    • The distro will Red Hat enterprise. At best, you could hope for the option of CentOS (or no OS at all).

    • This is the enterprise we're talking about. It'll be RHEL and SLES, preferably on ESX. Of course, you can install whatever you want.

  • Compliant? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @05:56PM (#26226375) Homepage Journal

    I wonder which pre-installed Linux distro they won't give you the source to.

    • Re:Compliant? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ChiefArcher (1753) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @06:06PM (#26226449) Homepage Journal

      Agreed... If i'm not mistaken
      the 6500 NAM and NAM2 blades run linux.
      and the older Cisco Content Manager caching engines ran linux (I rooted one).

      So.... You're right about the compliance part.

      • by rwyoder (759998)

        Agreed... If i'm not mistaken the 6500 NAM and NAM2 blades run linux. and the older Cisco Content Manager caching engines ran linux (I rooted one). So.... You're right about the compliance part.

        And the WAAS/WAE devices, (descendents of the CCM), and the Wireless LAN Controllers are all running Linux.

        • by gollito (980620)
          not all wlc's run linux. The stupid crappy wireless lan express engine or whatever it was called ran linux. Worthless piece of crap IMO.
  • by cruff (171569) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @06:04PM (#26226427)

    Cisco has been pushing into the Fibre Channel switch market also, and those switches have control processors running Linux on them. They were pushing various software companies to port things like SAN backup applications onto those processors. Ironically they refused to let us consider porting a custom data mover application from our archive software into the switch because we were an end user.

    • by afidel (530433)
      Their Fibre Channel switches SUCK. I had the most downtime I've ever had in my career recently due to their sucky designs. They massively oversubscribe things and they have way too few hardware B2B credits. Their big switches are an absolute joke. Look at Brocade's DCX vs a 9513, the Brocade can do full 8Gb full duplex bandwidth between every port on a 48 port blade and has 256Gbps of backplane which doesn't even get touched if your storage and hosts are on the same blade because the blades do local switchi
      • They run their FC business much like their ethernet business ;) If you want high performance, Cisco is definitely not the brand even in ethernet. In ethernet, at least, they live on the strength of their manageability, not much more.

        I know Cisco has some ethernet switches than can handle line rate on all their ports, but it's more rare than it should be. For example, I don't think any vendor other than Cisco has an entry level 48 port gigabit switch that doesn't have the fabric to handle it all concurren

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by pyite (140350)

          The 2960 may be a "gig switch" but it is not a gig switch. Get a 3750. Better yet, get an HP 3500yl and be done with it. Unless you have real pull for pricing with Cisco (some of us do), HP makes way more sense with the 3500yl and the 8200zl than Cisco with 3750 and 6500.

        • by afidel (530433)
          The difference is in an ethernet/TCP network you generally just get poorer performance unless you are really pushing things, in a FC environment things fall over when delivery can't be made. Our 9140's fell over at about 1.7Gbps max total throughput, they claimed to support 2Gbps on the first 8 ports and 4Gbps on each group of 4 for the other 32 ports. They tried to blame it on our storage array even after being shown the proof from their own tech captures and the detailed logging from our storage controlle
        • by afidel (530433)
          Oh, and I don't buy Cisco gear for performance, I buy it for reliability. Their chassis based switches are simply tanks and I have a very good track record with them, but they've always been overkill for the environments I've used them in, not sure how they fare when you really push them to the wall.
  • A blade server offering would pit Cisco in direct competition against the likes of Dell, HP and IBM, companies it partners with on their respective blade server offerings, for control of the enterprise data center.

    I never really did think I understood what that film was really about.

    Now I think I am beginning to get an idea.

    Apple?

    Show us your iBlades!

  • If true this should be yet another slice off Sun's stocks.
  • Back planes (Score:2, Informative)

    by Sniper98G (1078397)

    Cisco has been pushing into the data center for a long time. It seems to me this is a good move. They could build an enterprise class switch and a router right into the backplane of the blade server chassis and sell you a data center in a box. All you would need to do is plug a couple of fiber cables right into you backbone and be done.

    • by afidel (530433)
      You already have that with enclosure like the HP C-class, only it involves well engineered and supported blades and your choice of fiberchannel switches and/or Infiniband. They even offer storage and backup blades so you can do a datacenter in a box for midsized remote offices.
      • All of them have integrated switches (the Dell M-series, IBM from its inception). Hell, Cisco even makes a switch to put into the IBM product, probably the others too. Will note that none put them into the backplane, but in modular form factors, as it should be. Backplane should be as simple and reliable as can be (as passive as possible, redundant power and data traces, etc etc.)

  • software vs hardware (Score:5, Informative)

    by glitch23 (557124) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @06:27PM (#26226559)

    Since ChiefArcher mentioned a gripe about Cisco (delays in shipping hardware), I'll mention mine too. They make great hardware. I don't think anyone can dispute that. However their server software for managing that hardware is just....crap. Cisco Security Manager is slow, non-clusterable except with 3rd party (Veritas) software, and has some really dangerous default behavior which can't be changed. The backend runs on a server and a thick client is an administrator's interface to the backend and/or to network devices. In the case of CSM the devices are IDSs, firewalls, and VPNs. THe thick client is just that, thick. It is developed in Java and is just horrendously slow. A change in the thick client running on XP can require a restart of the services *on the server* thereby basically requiring an administrator to make the change anyway. It is ludicrous.

    Their other management app, LAN Management Solution, is just a cobbled together bunch of stuff that seems to barely work. If you breathe wrong it can break. We use the Solaris version at work. It doesn't have a thick client; all management is through a web browser. Managing it on the CLI at the OS level though is dog slow (takes 10 minutes to completely startup). The least little change in the GUI requires a restart. It is also expensive just like CSM (CSM is mid 5 digits for a single server to manage 500 devices). We've found many faults with both apps at work over the last 6 months beyond what I've mentioned above. I recommend staying away from them. I hope that their adventures into blade servers is better. They seem to do better at hardware than software.

    • I will give you that some Cisco applications are slow and cumbersome. You seem to use a couple of the worst ones. But Cisco does make a lot of other software that is very good. Take Network Compliance Manager (NCM); its interface uses no java (html only) and it is extremely responsive.

    • by Junta (36770)

      I will add that I'm not impressed with their hardware, but am impressed with their *firmare*. In terms of price performance, speed of switching, density, etc etc, they have competitors that beat them handily, without compromising fundamental reliability.

      Now in terms of managing complex networks and chasing problems down, I don't know of a competitor that provides compelling features in the firmware to detect and locate all the various conditions I've seen Cisco make easy. It's not fundamental to the hardw

      • by glitch23 (557124)

        I will add that I'm not impressed with their hardware, but am impressed with their *firmare*. In terms of price performance, speed of switching, density, etc etc, they have competitors that beat them handily, without compromising fundamental reliability.

        I agree with the hardware comment to a point. We have FWSMs and IDSM-2s at work. The following numbers are my best recollection from a recent round of performance testing a few weeks ago. The FWSMs can only do 2.5Gbps with TCP (3.0Gbps with UDP). Peak throughput for the IDSMs are only 500Mbps I believe(whatever it is it is much lower than the switching throughput). We have a 20Gb backbone but it is useless when you are having to use FWSMs and IDSMs between segments which severely drop your throughput. Other

    • by wiz_80 (15261)

      NetworkWorld says that the management software comes from BMC, which should mean their recent BladeLogic acquisition if Cisco has any sense. Sorry, no URL as I'm writing this post on my iTouch.

      The NW article says that this could be the beginning of a management software partnership, or perhaps an acquisition, which could be interesting.

      • by glitch23 (557124)
        Their Cisco MARS appliance was an acquisition of Protego Networks. Their LMS suite that I mentioned in my first post also came from another company (or at least some of the individual apps did and then Cisco tried to glue them together) but I don't recall which one. Despite the MARS appliance and software now being under Cisco's control for at least 3 years (since I've known about it) and the same with Cisco LMS you would think that Cisco would perform some assimilation and make the apps integrate better wi
    • by lanner (107308)

      I support your statement regarding crappy software. ACS is a real pile -- given it's importance, you might think they would improve upon it a little more. Call Manager has annoying issues up the wazoo. MARS looks kinda neat, until you actually try to use it and end up fighting against it all the time.

      I look more and more fondly upon Juniper. Their new EX series switches and smaller routers could start hurting Cisco here in a few years in the SMB market, rather than just carrier.

  • by ishobo (160209) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @06:38PM (#26226603)

    With their growth stagnating in networking gear, especially with all the competion from such companies as Juniper and HP, they decided into move to servers. It is going to be difficult for them to maintain their 70% profit margins.

  • Not being a network person and working at a college that is pure Cisco on the networking side, what percent of the market do they own? Close enough that one of the big boys might gripe a bit about (ahem) unfairly leveraging their markets?

    Sera
  • Software Support (Score:2, Informative)

    by Kronik Gamer (518652)

    Hopefully they will provide better software support than they do with their VPN clients.

    Still no Windows 64-bit support for their IPSEC client... very annoying to have to run a virtual machine to connect to a Cisco VPN.

  • Even though we have been a Cisco house for years our latest high end routing purchase went to Juniper.

    Our team is lamenting the lack of focus by Cisco on their traditional core competency - a situation Juniper seems to be taking advantage of right now.

    • Too many good companies attract sharks known as shareholders and executives that just want to pimp out the name, and not maintain efforts to lead their original advances. As you say, Cisco is letting their networking slide as they chase whatever flavor of the month executives want to slap the name onto. Guess this is good in a way, provides a bizarre, but eerily ubiquitous mechanism of preventing monopolies, self-destruct through greed.

      If lucky, they will be like other companies that at least come to thei

  • Cisco is behind the telecom giant Ericsson here, they already have a blade system delivered to Telstra:

    http://www.ericsson.com/solutions/news/2008/q4/081121_telstras_network.shtml [ericsson.com]

    Cisco, behind old and boring telecom? :)

  • I work for a Cisco partner in the VoIP space. Cisco has already put their PBX on Linux, as well as their SIP proxy. It is only a matter of time where every Cisco product which sits on top of Windows will remove that dependency. dam
  • The number one goal of any firm is to increase shareholder wealth. Cisco has a history of buying a product and squeezing the life out of it and this firm is having difficulties finding new networking related projects that have a required rate of return high enough to satisfy investors. Another point is that John Chambers recently announced they may begin paying dividends soon.
  • code-named California

    Wow, they're clever.

  • You can fit one of the latest bladeserver chassis from IBM,HP etc into about 12U or so of rack space. Inside that box you can combine a bunch of powerful servers, storage, multiple switched networks and I/O buses across mid planes, back planes, FC switches, etc. And some also make room for a disk array inside the same chassis. You can really call them "data centers in a box". This is not good for Cisco. HP/IBM, etc. will OEM Cisco I/O devices as part of the config options for their blade platforms. Bu

  • I hear you can run Infoblox on the Cisco NME cards, so now you can have DNS/DHCP running at remote sites with zero added footprint and central manageabiltiy!! Sweet!

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