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Data Center Diversity Drives IT Agendas

For the final chapter in Network Computing's five-part examination of Cisco's role in-- and the implications for--changes transforming the data center, we take a closer look at these changes and what they may mean for the near future. The first key to understanding this brave new world is the private cloud and IT as a service, says analyst David Hill, principal, Mesabi Group.

One upshot of the new market is that many of the big vendors have been filling out their product and service portfolios as they try and become more of an end-to-end, single-source data center powerhouse. So Cisco moves into the server market while former server partners HP and IBM buy (such as with HP's 3Com acquisition) or partner with (IBM and Juniper) alternative networking suppliers.

For the last decade, the networking space has been defined by Cisco, says Miniman. "For years, the competition was highly fragmented and lacked the army of supporters (Cisco's army of CCIEs and CCNAs) or the partnerships (Cisco has a very strong distribution channel and lots of partnerships)."

Things are changing rapidly in the networking marketplace now, he says. The combination of the transition to 10Gigabit Ethernet (and higher) speeds, along with the density of compute infrastructure and the increase in usage of embedded switching is putting increased competitive pressure on Cisco at the edge of the network.

"Cisco is well aware of this trend, and the launch of the Cisco UCS is not only an entry into the server market but also a way for Cisco to keep market share at the edge. HP (Procurve and Virtual Connect) and IBM (BNT acquisition) both have offerings that are both baked into blade server offerings and into top-of-rack environments; Cisco is likely to lose share in the edge/embedded."

Miniman says core networking is also going through a transition due to virtualization and cloud computing trends. "Cisco's transition from the very popular Catalyst product line to the newer Nexus product line offers competition and opportunity to try and win business." There has been consolidation in the players that are competing with Cisco for the core switches. "In the past, the 'other' vendors fought to be a second source to Cisco, fighting over the market share scraps, but recently, HP and Juniper have been gaining share and other players like Arista have carved out niches (in Arista's case in the HPC market)."

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