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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The Flash Blindness Caused By SDN Hype Keeps Many From Seeing Cisco's Growth Path

Andre Kindness

Cisco released its 1st quarter financial statement last week, and the numbers weren’t pretty. But this shouldn’t surprise too many, since the company warned the financial community that the revenue growth was going to be below their expectations. Unlike most, I see this as more of an inflection point in an undulation that swings back into a growth mode that comes with a change in strategy than a parabolic upside-down curve. While there are multiple transformations starting to occur in the networking domain, the Cisco Doomsday-ers seem to solely focus on software-defined networking and the creation of cloud infrastructures; they assume the data center of the future will look like Google’s data centers, even though no one truly, outside of Google, knows how it really runs or what the components are.

For argument’s sake, let’s assume every data center (private or XaaS platforms) will be a Google data center full of white-box components and Cisco’s high margin/feature switches will disappear. Does this mean Cisco becomes irrelevant or loses its position as the 800 lb. gorilla in the networking industry? Heck no. What clearly is being missed by most of the world is the incredible transformation starting to materialize outside the data center. And no, it isn’t the presence of mobile devices. That is today’s transformation that changed the consumer. The business will catch up. Tomorrow’s emergence of Internet of Things (IoT) will enable the business to meet its consumers’ desirers, and Cisco sees it already. Cisco could lose every port in the data centers and still be ahead if you look at where the amount of port growth and network revenue will come over the next 10 years.

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Huawei Further Defines Its Enterprise Business Strategy

Frank Liu

Chinese media outlets recently published a speech given by Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei in which he addressed Huawei’s enterprise business. This speech was not only represents the first public enterprise business overview since Huawei entered the market three years ago, but it also details the firm’s enterprise business development strategy for 2014.

First note that Huawei recorded US$2.5 billion in enterprise revenue in 2013, representing year-on-year growth of 33% — which did not meet the company’s expectations. Mr. Ren’s speech shows how Huawei is further fine-tuning its enterprise strategy and what that means for end users. He said that Huawei:

  • Has an enterprise solution to support your big data strategy. Organizations need to translate huge amounts of data into business outcomes. While Huawei’s big data hardware solution didn’t address business requirements by industry and region, it plans to build complete big data solutions using FusionCube, its converged infrastructure product.
  • Will centralize its resources in key products and regions. This is a good strategy for Huawei’s enterprise business, which focuses mainly on Asia Pacific and Europe. By concentrating on key countries like China, Japan, and India, Huawei can improve its local service capabilities, including maintenance, tech support, and ecosystem development, via ISVs and SIs.
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Now Is The Time For CIOs To Tune Into 3D Printing

Sophia Vargas

While the basic technology behind 3D printing has been around for decades, recent hype and coverage has recast a spotlight on the industry. Over the last few years, incumbent and emerging vendors have been rapidly developing 3D printers, each more productive than the last, with an ever expanding variety of printable materials and possible use cases. 

Outside of consumer hobbyists, 3D printing will have the greatest impact on businesses that design and manufacture discrete products, introducing rapid prototyping to speed up development cycles and an alternative production method for customized finished objects.

What does this mean for CIOs and technology management departments?

As the resident technology expert, you may be called upon to evaluate the hardware and feasibility of 3D printing for your business. Beyond assessment, businesses may demand:

  • Technology support and management. If your business decides to incorporate 3D printers, as a new networked device, support could entail adapting and integrating the 3D printing ecosystem into current product lifecycle management platforms and processes, not to mention troubleshooting hardware and software issues.
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Leading Networking Companies Are Helping Improve Your Business’ Customer Experience

Andre Kindness

Ten years ago, if I had stood up in front of IT professionals and said that their company would allow employees to bring their own devices to work in lieu of corporate-owned devices, I would have been heckled out of the room, but look at where we are today. Well, I am here to say that it won’t stop at personal devices or applications. The user edge of the network (where users and mobile devices connect, not servers or storage) is slowly shifting under the control of business and is an integral part of the ecosystem that shapes a customer’s experience. Already, non-IT employees are doing traditional networking tasks like:

  • Granting wireless network access. Controlling who gets on the network had always been an IT function, until wireless came out. Assistants, business greeters, and other employees can give guests Internet access with all the wireless solutions on the market today.
  • Setting up networks. Today, manufacturing engineers design manufacturing lines and deploy automation equipment with built-in Ethernet/IP capabilities, such as motion sensors, energy monitors, and logic boards. The design and management of that part of the network falls under their domain.
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Intel Bumps up High-End Servers with New Xeon E7 V2 - A Long Awaited and Timely Leap

Richard Fichera

The long draught at the high-end

It’s been a long wait, about four years if memory serves me well, since Intel introduced the Xeon E7, a high-end server CPU targeted at the highest performance per-socket x86, from high-end two socket servers to 8-socket servers with tons of memory and lots of I/O. In the ensuing four years (an eternity in a world where annual product cycles are considered the norm), subsequent generations of lesser Xeons, most recently culminating in the latest generation 22 nm Xeon E5 V2 Ivy Bridge server CPUs, have somewhat diluted the value proposition of the original E7.

So what is the poor high-end server user with really demanding single-image workloads to do? The answer was to wait for the Xeon E7 V2, and at first glance, it appears that the wait was worth it. High-end CPUs take longer to develop than lower-end products, and in my opinion Intel made the right decision to skip the previous generation 22nm Sandy Bridge architecture and go to Ivy Bridge, it’s architectural successor in the Intel “Tick-Tock” cycle of new process, then new architecture.

What was announced?

The announcement was the formal unveiling of the Xeon E7 V2 CPU, available in multiple performance bins with anywhere from 8 to 15 cores per socket. Critical specifications include:

  • Up to 15 cores per socket
  • 24 DIMM slots, allowing up to 1.5 TB of memory with 64 GB DIMMs
  • Approximately 4X I/O bandwidth improvement
  • New RAS features, including low-level memory controller modes optimized for either high-availability or performance mode (BIOS option), enhanced error recovery and soft-error reporting
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How to Build the Perfect Smartwatch

JP Gownder

It’s time for vendors to step up and build the perfect smartwatch. It’s not really about the device at all, but the ecosystem around the device. Infrastructure & operations professionals have an opportunity here: to work with their business partners and vendors to construct next generation experiences around smartwatches.

For example, retail marketers, always on the hunt for the perfect in-store experiences, and are increasingly turning to mobile technologies to create customized interactions. By opting in to a relationship with a store, a patron can be recognized by name by a sales associate, see the images on digital displays change as she walks by them (tailored to her), receive in-store targeted promotions as she picks up particular products, and even leave the store without handing over any overt form of payment. All of these things are possible with today's technologies.

Scenarios like this one are inherently mobile, but smartphones aren't actually the best vehicle for these experiences. Smartphones can be easily stolen, for one thing, making the retail scenario challenging. And retailers don't want the eyes of patrons who walk into their stores glued to a smartphone; they want those eyes looking around the store.

Smartwatches, on the other hand, can be the perfect enabler of scenarios like this one (and like others in healthcare and other verticals), so long as they have all the necessary components. There are in fact eight strategic pillars for smartwatches:

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Wearables Helping People With Disabilities – A SXSW Talk

JP Gownder

Readers of this blog and of my syndicated reports know that I’ve spent a great deal of time lately researching and analyzing the market for wearable devices and the emerging wearables ecosystem. I’m excited to announce that I’ll be co-presenting a talk at SXSW with Jen Quinlan (Twitter: @QuirkyInsider) about a specific sub-segment of the wearables market – how wearable devices, in concert with the Internet of Things, can help people overcome various sorts of disabilities.

Jen conceived of this talk, and was kind enough to invite me to collaborate with her. And I was thrilled, particularly when I heard about the topic she had proposed. Why? I’m interested – and hope you will be too – because:

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Build Mobile Systems Of Engagement To Thrive In The Age Of The Customer

Katyayan Gupta

Organizations in Asia Pacific (AP) have become cognizant of the fact that they have entered the age of the customer — an era in which they must systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers. In the past two years, most AP firms have primarily focused on using mobile apps to connect their organizations with internal employees. However, in the age of the customer, this trend will reverse. Results from Forrester’s Forrsights Budgets and Priorities Survey, Q4 2013 show that 44% of AP technology decision-makers will prioritize building a mobile strategy for customers or partners, while only 39% will prioritize it for employees. Firms in Australia, Indonesia, India, and China will lead the region.

In order to compete and win in the age of the customer, organizations cannot be simply “customer-centric” anymore — they must become “customer-obsessed.” To do so, firms must embrace the mobile mindshift and build mobile systems of engagement. This can be done by leveraging social, cloud, and predictive analytics to deliver context-rich mobile applications and smart products that help users decide and act immediately in their moments of need. Such systems will focus on people and their immediate needs in context rather than processes, as is the case with traditional systems of record.

Building mobile systems of engagements is even more critical for firms in AP, because:

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Predictions For 2014: Private Cloud Management

Lauren Nelson

Every year Forrester publishes our overall cloud computing predictions which occasionally includes one or two private cloud predictions. With current private cloud self-reported adoption at 33% and 55% prioritizing building an internal private cloud in 2014, we thought it was time to create a report that focuses just on this deployment type. This year we published a separate report that features our private cloud predictions across pricate cloud management and infrastructure. The report covers the full descriptions and what I&O professionals should do about it. I covered the management predictions, while my colleague Rich Fichera, covered the infrastructure trends. This year we predict: 

1. Enhanced Virtualization Becomes A Separate Initiative From Private Cloud. Forrester predicts that in 2014, CIOs will bless the separation of these initiatives such that the firm can both use private cloud to embrace the age of the customer and work to advance back-end systems. 

2. OpenStack Becomes A Standard. Forrester predicts that by the end of 2014, OpenStack APIs will become the fourth standard. Over the past few years, OpenStack has grown in functionality and deployments.

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