Cisco and VMware have announced a partnership designed to dominate corporate datacentres with the combination of VMware's virtualisation tools and a new Cisco platform that brings together computing, network and storage hardware.
Best known for its network infrastructure kit, Cisco today unveiled its Unified Computing System (UCS), which combines separate networks for carrying data, storage and server cluster traffic into a single unified fabric, and sees the introduction of Cisco blade server hardware.
Cisco's servers are based on new Intel Nehalem chips that have yet to be officially announced, but are widely expected to be available within the next month or two. According to sources, the servers will fit into an eight-bay chassis designed to take seven blades and one of Cisco's Nexus switches.
The other element of the architecture is a unified network fabric based on 10 Gigabit Ethernet and supporting Fibre Channel over Ethernet for connecting storage.
Together with virtualisation technology from VMware, the platform is intended to turn datacentre infrastructure into a more scalable and flexible environment for delivery of IT as a service.
"It's about massive-scale infrastructure running lots of virtual machines with a big focus on management, and will be important going forwards with cloud computing," said Martin Niemer, group product marketing manager for VMware Infrastructure.
Niemer said that VMware has been working with Cisco for the past three years on this project, which integrates the UCS with VMware vCenter Suite for management.
However, despite this partnership, customers buying into Cisco's platform will be able to use other virtualisation software such as Microsoft's Hyper-V. "Ultimately, it's up to customers what virtualisation platform they use," Niemer said.
As part of the agreement, Cisco will become a VMware Authorised Consultant partner, able to resell VMware's ESX and VI products along with its own hardware.
The move puts Cisco in direct competition with experienced and long-established server vendors such as HP and IBM, and has already drawn flak from others within the industry, who perceive it as an attempt by Cisco to lock customers into its own platform.
"IBM and HP offer open low cost solutions, have decades of experience delivering such solutions, and it will not take customers very long to see through Cisco's 'my way or the highway' tactic," commented Vikram Mehta, chief executive at Blade Network Technologies.
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