Cisco UCS at Five Years – Successful Disruption and a New Status-Quo

Richard Fichera

March Madness – Five Years Ago

It was five years ago, March 2009, when Cisco formally announced  “Project California,” its (possibly intentionally) worst-kept secret, as Cisco Unified Computing System. At the time, I was working at Hewlett Packard, and our collective feelings as we realized that Cisco really did intend to challenge us in the server market were a mixed bag. Some of us were amused at their presumption, others were concerned that there might be something there, since we had odd bits and pieces of intelligence about the former Nuova, the Cisco spin-out/spin-in that developed UCS. Most of us were convinced that they would have trouble running a server business at margins we knew would be substantially lower than their margins in their core switch business. Sitting on top of our shiny, still relatively new HP c-Class BladeSystem, which had overtaken IBM’s BladeCenter as the leading blade product, we were collectively unconcerned, as well as puzzled about Cisco’s decision to upset a nice stable arrangement where IBM, HP and Dell sold possibly a Billion dollars’ worth of Cisco gear between them.

Fast Forward

Five years later, HP is still number one in blade server units and revenue, but Cisco appears to be now number two in blades, and closing in on number three world-wide in server sales as well. The numbers are impressive:

·         32,000 net new customers in five years, with 14,000 repeat customers

·         Claimed $2 Billion+ annual run-rate

·         Order growth rate claimed in “mid-30s” range, probably about three times the growth rate of any competing product line.

Lessons Learned

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Lenovo Buys IBM x86 Server Business

Richard Fichera

Wow, wake up and it’s a whole new world – a central concept of many contemplative belief systems and a daily reality on the computer industry.  I woke up this morning to a pleseant New England day with low single-digit temperatures under a brilliant blue sky, and lo and behold, by the time I got to work, along came the news that Lenovo had acquired IBM’s x86 server business, essentially lock, stock and barrel. For IBM the deal is compelling, given that it has decided to move away from the volume hardware manufacturing business, giving them a long-term source for its needed hardware components, much as they did with PCs and other volume hardware in the past. Lenovo gains a world-class server product line for its existing channel organization that vastly expands its enterprise reach, along with about 7,500 engineering, sales and marketing employees who understand the enterprise server business.

What’s Included

The rumors have been circulating for about a year, but the reality is still pretty impressive – for $2.3 Billion in cash and stock, Lenovo acquired all x86 systems line, including the entire rack and blade line, Flex System, blade networking, and the newer NeXtScale and iDataPlex. In addition, Lenovo will have licensed access to many of the surrounding software and hardware components, including SmartCLoud Entry, Storewize, Director, Platform computing, GPFS, etc.

IBM will purchase hardware on an OEM basis to continue to deliver value-added integrated systems such as Pure Application and Pure Data systems.

What IBM Keeps

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Lenovo Buys IBM x86 Server Business

Richard Fichera

Wow, wake up and it’s a whole new world – a central concept of many contemplative belief systems and a daily reality on the computer industry. I woke up this morning to a pleseant New England day with low single-digit temperatures under a brilliant blue sky, and lo and behold, by the time I got to work, along came the news that Lenovo had acquired IBM’s x86 server business, essentially lock, stock and barrel. For IBM the deal is compelling, given that it has decided to move away from the volume hardware manufacturing business, giving them a long-term source for its needed hardware components, much as they did with PCs and other volume hardware in the past. Lenovo gains a world-class server product line for its existing channel organization that vastly expands its enterprise reach, along with about 7,500 engineering, sales and marketing employees who understand the enterprise server business.

What’s Included

The rumors have been circulating for about a year, but the reality is still pretty impressive – for $2.3 Billion in cash and stock, Lenovo acquired all x86 systems line, including the entire rack and blade line, Flex System, blade networking, and the newer NeXtScale and iDataPlex. In addition, Lenovo will have licensed access to many of the surrounding software and hardware components, including SmartCLoud Entry, Storewize, Director, Platform computing, GPFS, etc.

IBM will purchase hardware on an OEM basis to continue to deliver value-added integrated systems such as Pure Application and Pure Data systems.

What IBM Keeps

IBM will keep its mainframe, Power Systems including its Flex System Power systems, and its storage business, and will both retain and expand its service and integration business, as well as provide support for the new Lenovo server offerings.

What Does it Mean for IBM Customers?

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2014 Server and Data Center Predictions

Richard Fichera

As the new year looms, thoughts turn once again to our annual reading of the tea leaves, in this case focused on what I see coming in server land. We’ve just published the full report, Predictions for 2014: Servers & Data Centers, but as teaser, here are a few of the major highlights from the report:

1.      Increasing choices in form factor and packaging – I&O pros will have to cope with a proliferation of new form factors, some optimized for dense low-power cloud workloads, some for general purpose legacy IT, and some for horizontal VM clusters (or internal cloud if you prefer). These will continue to appear in an increasing number of variants.

2.      ARM – Make or break time is coming, depending on the success of coming 64-bit ARM CPU/SOC designs with full server feature sets including VM support.

3.      The beat goes on – Major turn of the great wheel coming for server CPUs in early 2014.

4.      Huge potential disruption in flash architecture – Introduction of flash in main memory DIMM slots has the potential to completely disrupt how flash is used in storage tiers, and potentially can break the current storage tiering model, initially physically with the potential to ripple through memory architectures.

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Are You Ready For An Architectural Evolution With Converged Applications?

Charlie Dai

SAP launched its HANA in-memory computing platform in 2010. HANA is a converged analytics appliance. Three years later, SAP has officially launched Business Suite on HANA: globally in January and in China on March 19. SAP clients can now run mission-critical applications on the converged infrastructure for optimized performance. Personally, I would suggest calling this an example of converged applications, which in short refers to the business applications that are architected around the converged infrastructure for performance and simplicity.

I had several conversations with architects from the retail, logistics, and manufacturing industries, as well as Tom Kindermans, SAP’s senior vice president of applications for APJ, about these converged applications. I tend to believe that this is the next wave of application architecture, after mainframe, client/server, and browser/server. With the deployment of these converged infrastructure offerings and the evolution of the applications that run on top of them, it might change technical architectures across infrastructure, information, and applications, as well as the organizational structure of IT, the architecture, and the partner ecosystems. My assessment:

  • The definition of converged applications is blurry. The meaning of incorporating converged applications can vary quite a bit. Sometimes it means migrating an application from one server to the other; sometimes it means refactoring your networking and storage design for load balancing and disaster recovery; and sometimes eliminating an original performance bottleneck means that business challenges that had been lurking under the surface might emerge for you to resolve. It totally depends on your business goals.
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IBM STG Is Upbeat On PureSystems And Growth Markets

Manish Bahl

 

Last month, I attended an IBM Systems and Technology Group (STG) Executive Summit in the US, where IBM outlined its key strategies for accelerating sales in growth markets, including:

·         Aggressively marketing PureSystems. IBM is positioning PureSystems (a pre-integrated, converged system of servers, storage, and networking technology with automated self-management and built-in SmartCloud technology) as an integrated and simplified data center offering to help organizations reduce the money and time they spend on the management and administration of servers. 

·         Continuing to expand in “tier two” cities. Over the next 12 months, IBM plans to continue its expansion outside of major metropolitan areas by opening small branches in nearly 100 locations in growth markets, most notably India, China, Brazil, and Russia.

·         Expanding channel capabilities and accelerating new routes to market. IBMplans to certify 2,800 global resellers on PureSystems in 2013 and upgrade the solution and technical expertise of 500 of its partners. Also, the company plans to drive the revenue of managed service providers (MSPs) by working with them closely to develop cloud-based services and solutions on PureSystems.

Considering the vast potential demand from growth markets and slowdown in developed markets, IBM is among the growing camp of multinational vendors aggressively targeting them as an engine for future business. Some of my key observations on IBMs event and recent announcements:

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Dell Is On A Quest For Software

Glenn O'Donnell

 

One of the many hilarious scenes in Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the "Bridge of Death" sequence. This week's news that Dell plans to acquire Quest Software makes one think of a slight twist to this scene:

Bridgekeeper:   "What ... is your name?"
Traveler:           "John Swainson of Dell."
Bridgekeeper:   "What ... is your quest?"
Traveler:           "Hey! That's not a bad idea!"

We suspect Dell's process was more methodical than that!

This acquisition was not a surprise, of course. All along, it has been obvious that Dell needed stronger assets in software as it continues on its quest to avoid the Gorge of Eternal Peril that is spanned by the Bridge of Death. When the company announced that John Swainson was joining to lead the newly formed software group, astute industry watchers knew the next steps would include an ambitious acquisition. We predicted such an acquisition would be one of Swainson's first moves, and after only four months on the job, indeed it was.

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Vodafone Reinforces Its Position In The UK Enterprise Market Through Cable & Wireless Worldwide Take-Over

Dan Bieler

Vodafone agreed to acquire Cable & Wireless Worldwide (CWW) for 1.04 billion pounds in cash, valuing CWW at three times EBITDA. The deal propels Vodafone to the second largest telco in the UK with revenues of GBP6.97 billion, behind BT with revenues of GBP15.6 billion. From a financial perspective, the deal has a limited impact, accounting for only 3% of Vodafone’s 2011 EBITDA. However, given BT’s lack of a mobile division, Vodafone, becomes the leading integrated telco in the UK, offering fixed and mobile operations. The deal is expected to complete in Q3 2012.

The main focus of the deal is on CWW’s UK fixed-line network and CWW’s business customer base, both of which Vodafone aims to add to its UK mobile network. CWW provides managed voice, data, hosting, and IP-based services and applications. The deal boosts Vodafone’s enterprise offering, both in terms of access and transport infrastructure and also in terms of customer base. CWW is a major global infrastructure player: Its international cable network spans 425,000 km in length, covering 150 countries. In the UK, CWW operates a 20,500 km fiber network. Moreover, CWW has about 6,000 business customers. The future of CWW’s non-UK assets remains uncertain. In our view they do provide true value for Vodafone, strengthening its global network infrastructure. Vodafone will provide further details regarding these non-UK assets later in the year.

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Suddenly, Dell Is A Software Company!

Glenn O'Donnell

The Dell brand is one of the most recognizable in technology. It was born a hardware company in 1984 and deservedly rocketed to fame, but it has always been about the hardware. In 2009, its big Perot Systems acquisition marked the first real departure from this hardware heritage. While it made numerous software acquisitions, including some good ones like Scalent, Boomi, and KACE, it remains a marginal player in software. That is about to change.

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A Rift At The High-End For Server Requirements?

Richard Fichera

We have been repeatedly reminded that the requirements of hyper-scale cloud properties are different from those of the mainstream enterprise, but I am now beginning to suspect that the top strata of the traditional enterprise may be leaning in the same direction. This suspicion has been triggered by the combination of a recent day in NY visiting I&O groups in a handful of very large companies and a number of unrelated client interactions.

The pattern that I see developing is one of “haves” versus “have nots” in terms of their ability to execute on their technology vision with internal resources. The “haves” are the traditional large sophisticated corporations, with a high concentration in financial services. They have sophisticated IT groups, are capable fo writing extremely complex systems management and operations software, and typically own and manage 10,000 servers or more. The have nots are the ones with more modest skills and abilities, who may own 1000s of servers, but tend to be less advanced than the core FSI companies in terms of their ability to integrate and optimize their infrastructure.

The divergence in requirements comes from what they expect and want from their primary system vendors. The have nots are companies who understand their limitations and are looking for help form their vendors in the form of converged infrastructures, new virtualization management tools, and deeper integration of management software to automate operational tasks, These are people who buy HP c-Class, Cisco UCS, for example, and then add vendor-supplied and ISV management and automation tools on top of them in an attempt to control complexity and costs. They are willing to accept deeper vendor lock-in in exchange for the benefits of the advanced capabilities.

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