The Battle for the Data Center

Cisco's entry into the server market reinforces a larger issue: all the technology industry's biggest players want to be king of the data center.

After months of rumors, Cisco has confirmed that it will soon launch a server product line. Cisco CTO Pamasree Warrior made it official in a New York Times story, which looked at how the move will impact Cisco's partnerships with IBM, HP and Dell.

"Industry experts say that Cisco’s push into the server market will disrupt that comfortable symbiosis and could cause an all-out war among the tech titans for one another’s customers," Ashlee Vance wrote.

There will be much more to write about Cisco's server initiatives in months to come. But if Cisco's vision for "unified computing" becomes a reality, it will have broader implications for data center staffing and culture, as noted by Gartner's Lydia Leong.

"Unified computing — unified management of compute, storage, and network elements — is not just going to shape up to be a clash between vendors," Lydia writes. "It’s going to become a turf war between systems administrators and network engineers. Today, computing and storage are classically the domain of the former, and the WAN the domain of the latter. ... The more a given technology crosses turf lines, the greater the dispute over who manages it, whose budget it comes out of, etc. He who controls the entire enchilada - the management platform - is king of the data center."

These are exceptionally interesting times for the data center industry. Virtualization, cloud computing and the unified network fabric all loom as disruptive forces, even as cost-cutting and the drive for energy efficiency transform the physical environment. The data center is at the heart of the Internet economy, and the industry's biggest players all want to be its king.

Strap yourselves in, everyone. 2009 will be an interesting ride.

TAGS: Cisco
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