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Volume 17, Number 48 -- December 15, 2008

Cisco To Get Into Blade Servers?

Published: December 15, 2008

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

The word on the street last week is that networking giant, Cisco Systems wants to grow so much that it is ready and willing to incur the wrath of its server partners by entering the blade server market and compete with them.

According to a report in NetworkWorld magazine, citing rumors running around at Cisco's C-Scape analyst conference last week, as part of Cisco's "Big Bang" product launch in 2009, which will see the company put out new switches and routers, the company will also launch its own blade servers. It would stand to reason that Cisco will embed some sophisticated networking on the blades and within the chassis to give it some kind of competitive edge compared to the blade servers made by IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Sun Microsystems.

The rumor is that Cisco has code-named the blade servers "California" and that they are comprised of X64 processors (probably from Intel is my guess, and maybe even OEMed from Intel itself and using IBM's BladeCenter form factor) running Linux with an embedded Cisco Nexus 5000 switch in the box. Cisco is expected to announce a single fabric for network, server (both physical and virtual), and storage devices, and it will be interesting to see if Cisco taps InfiniBand (which it has plenty of expertise with) or 10 Gigabit Ethernet. Cisco's name is pretty much synonymous with Ethernet networking, but the company bought InfiniBand and server virtualization expert TopSpin in April 2005 for $250 million. TopSpin made InfiniBand switches and adapters as well as its own virtualization hypervisor called VFrame; this could somehow relate to the Big Bang rollout. It is also possible that Cisco means to embed its Nexus 1000V software-based switch (which runs on X64 iron, which presents virtual networking links into virtual servers, and which talks to real network switches) on its California blades.

Whatever Cisco is doing, it ain't saying yet. Stay tuned.


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