With Cisco's acquisition of Tidal Software last week, the company continues to beef up its software portfolio beyond its core networking business. Tidal makes performance monitoring software for enterprise applications like Oracle and SAP that run in large data centers. While $105 million is not a big bet for Cisco, I see this as further convergence of computing and communications in both the enterprise data center and ultimately in the cloud. There is innovation at the core OS level to optimize performance for Intel's new Xeon 5500 processors. Microsoft Hyper-V, Sun Solaris and Red Hat Linux have been extended to enable performance and energy efficiency improvements available using Intel's extended page table memory access. This allows the hypervisor to bypasses kernel software codepaths altogether and map directly to virtual guest instances. Advanced memory management using Intel's QuickPath enables the ability to virtualize previously uncommon I/O workloads such as database & file serving. This is how we will see network layer virtualization evolve, reducing power consumption while creating efficient memory use along the way. All these features, combined with Cisco's California architecture, are coming together to disrupt the computing core. Moving up the data center management stack with tools such as Tidal makes a lot of sense for Cisco, because at the end of the day, the key will be application performance.
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Cisco is taking virtualization from the network layer up as an alternative approach from a data center architecture perspective. These are not ordinary blade servers being announced today. The new Unified Computing System from Cisco will have a simplified infrastructure, meaning fewer management modules, I/O bays and a more open backplane. Nehalem-EP processors can support half-blade or full-width blade configurations providing a great deal of flexibility. The release states "patented extended memory technology" to support applications with large data sets. They've taken an approach to economically address large logical memory requirements with better physical DIMM utilization (think lower cost). Supporting iSCSCI, Fiber channel and Fiber Channel over Ethernet gives customers the option of NAS or SAN support and a built-in upgrade path. Much of the news most likely will focus on HP, Dell and IBM and what this means for Cisco's large strategic partners. The blades could cut both ways.
The Stratus Project announcement focuses on partnering with a variety of companies in the data center ecosystem to assemble a converged "data center fabric." The release describes a flat, non-blocking and lossless layer to support converged traffic at 10 GigE. It sounds great. The problem is given number of players in the Project, who is responsible for delivering on this SLA? Will it be Juniper or presumably a systems integrator? I only see a mega router and switch that gives some operational improvement on implementing JUNOS in a data center but not much more. The website provided in the release was 404.
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As noted in the media, this is an unusual PR stunt. Presumably giving in to pressure from key customers about working both companies on real business issues the very next day it was business as usual. Seems like the customers will be the ones left confused. As world collide, the customers become the last child, just a punk in the streets.