Cisco Sets Sights on Switches

Reveals plans to boost its storage switching and security

September 7, 2006

3 Min Read
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Cisco is planning to boost its data center story with the launch of new switches and storage technology, according to execs at the firm's annual analyst conference in New York today.

The vendor is planning to launch easy-to-use networking switches with virtualization features sometime this year, according to Charlie Giancarlo, Cisco's chief development officer. Although he did not go into specifics, Giancarlo promised that the switches will benefit from what he described as "automated services provisioning," which is essentially easy configuration. Users, he added, are looking "to use no more than a screwdriver" to configure their switches.

Cisco's future offerings will also cover "the new storage switch market," according to Giancarlo, who says the firm is extending its blade portfolio to encompass both fabric switches and director technologies. "We think that we're in the middle of redefining a very large marketplace."

At least one analyst thinks that this move will plug a gap in the Cisco product family. "The thing that seems to be missing at the moment is a Fibre Channel switch that will slot into a blade server," says Tam Dell'Oro, founder and president of analyst firm the Dell'Oro Group. "They don't have that within their portfolio."

Nonetheless, storage was one of the highlights in Cisco's recent quarterly results, with fourth quarter storage revenues rising more than 65 percent year over year, thanks to the performance of the company's new 4-Gbit/s 528-port MDS 9513 Director, as well as traction in the fabric switching market. (See Cisco Reports Q4, Cisco Goes 4-Gig & Big, and EMC Certifies Cisco Director.)Giancarlo's comments also suggest that Cisco is looking to grasp the opportunities presented by recent consolidation in the storage market. Following Brocade's recent acquisition of McData, for example, Cisco now has only one major competitor in the storage switching space. (See Cisco Rattles Storage Sabre.)

Cisco's desire to grow its storage footprint also reflects a shift in how storage is handled by end-users, according to Zeus Kerravala, vice president of analyst firm Yankee Group. "Long-term, storage networking is going to be owned by networking managers," he says. "A lot of the challenges in creating wide area storage are challenges that we have already seen in the networking space, such as encryption and routing loops."

Cisco also added some more flesh to the bones of its ongoing network security strategy today, combining its own Network Admission Control (NAC) framework with Microsoft's Network Access Protection (NAP) initiative. (See Cisco Expands NAC Framework, Cisco Unveils New Network Solution, and Cisco Sets Out Security Strategy.) The strategies, which enforce security policy compliance across different devices, initially appeared to be in competition, although the two vendors unveiled an interoperability roadmap today.

Users, according to Cisco, will be able to start deploying a joint NAC/NAP solution once Microsoft's 'Longhorn' version of Windows server is available in the second half of 2007. The two vendors have also cross-licensed the NAC and NAP protocols. (See Cisco, Microsoft Unveil Plan.)

But another analyst warns that Cisco still faces plenty of hurdles as it bolsters its storage and security strategies. "Failure to execute in new markets, such as security, VOIP storage, and wireless could leave the company vulnerable to slowing revenue growth," warns Inder Singh, an analyst at Prudential Financial, in a note released today.In after-hours trading today, shares of Cisco crept up 3 cents (0.14 percent) to $21.72.

James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • Dell'Oro Group

  • McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA)

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • Yankee Group Research Inc.

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