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.
"That changes the whole way of looking at the situation, as the end goal is a transformed IT infrastructure that is cost-efficient, more responsive to changing business needs (agility) and embodies greater disciplines (that is, higher and more quantifiable service levels)," says Hill. "That means that not only Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM and Oracle are the major vendors, but EMC, VMware and NetApp also are key players. [Also important are] companies ranging from single-product companies that fill in key gaps (which is why so many get acquired) to multiple product/service companies that cover selected key areas but do not have the breadth of the larger companies, such as Microsoft."
Network Computing Special Report: How Cisco Is Changing The Datacenter
Part 1 - Throwing Bandwidth At Your Network Problems Isn't Enough
Part 2 - Cisco Faces Uphill Battle Selling Data Center Servers
Part 3 - Lots of Changes, But Top Storage Vendor Lineup To Remain Intact
Part 4 - Data Centers: Who's On First?
The "information utility" concept has been around since at least 1986, but the current attempt is wisely considered to be a journey and no one has completed the journey, states Hill. "The question is whether there will ever be a final destination, or are companies on an endless voyage where progress can be made step by step but no company can say that it has completed the journey, even for a time. The jury is still out on that."
Stuart Miniman, senior analyst, the Wikibon Project, says that while every vendor has been proclaiming its vision of what the data center of the future looks like, it is only recently that he has been able to discern some differentiation between the actual products. "Cisco was first with the new vision with Data Center 3.0. It has taken a couple of years, but Cisco is delivering on a lot of what it promised. The challenge for Cisco is that it has such a large installed base and broad portfolio that customers can easily be confused how to get from today's environment to tomorrow's promise. Juniper is reinvigorated with its new vision and product, Qfabric."
Charles King, principal analyst, Pund-IT Research, says there's a certain amount of hype involved with the various vendors' data center aspirations, which means customers need to proceed with at least a modicum of "caveat emptor." "That said, each company's offering tends to emphasize its individual strengths, so while there's some chest beating going on, most know what they're talking about, so far as their own solutions go, anyway. Plus, since these strategies will significantly influence how each vendor takes cloud computing to market, customers are advised to pay attention."