As a life long Manchester United fan, it will take a while to recover from the trauma of watching my beloved United (The Red Devils) being trounced by a resurgent Liverpool team 4-1 in Manchester towards the end very productive ten city road trip. Trust me - if, like me you are a Man U fan, this is truly earth shattering!
Brocade Red that Solves Problems and Saves Green
On the other hand I am pretty sure that Cisco’s UCS announcement, accompanied by the ritual razzamatazz and chest thumping we have come accustomed to from the boys on Tasman Drive, will soon be forgotten, at least by customers who have better and more pressing things to do than worry about five year visions and promises of solving real world problems with a bundle of “soon to be announced” products.
Cool Technology – Not Today Thank You
I agree with one of the analysts who upon attending the Cisco PR/AR jamborees commented (I paraphrase) “this could be one of the biggest mistakes Cisco has ever made”. Then there was the guy who described the "captivating" (literally) TelePresence-driven press event as like “living in North Korea” (nice one!) Now admittedly I am a bit biased on this subject. If Cisco actually manage to bamboozle enough customers and convince them to stall purchases of perfectly good, proven cost saving solutions from Brocade and its partners, my life would be made even more difficult than it is right now. The problem is that most of the people writing about UCS have never lived the life of an IT manager whose life revolves around meeting unreasonable goals in impossible timelines, with inadequate budgets – all without risking disruption to working systems that run their business.
One journalist I met in Milan was literally drooling as he described to me the Cisco press event he had just come from where they had talked to him about UCS. “It looks very cool,” he said. “Just what the world needs right now – cool technology” I thought to myself. When I asked him what technologies and products were actually discussed the only thing he could remember was Nexus and FCoE and something about integration with VMWare. “They are going to consolidate everything in to one box – SAN and LAN - and drive the market to FCoE,” he said. When I pointed out the risks associated with running your mission critical applications on an unproven, as yet non-standard technology which required expensive re-cabling, new switches and adapters he started to look a little less smug. When I suggested he ask Cisco if they themselves are running any of their own mission critical apps on FCoE networks (as they are suggesting their customers should – and of course we know they are not) or even have a project plan to do so, he got all excited because journalists love to ask those kinds of embarrassing questions.
Of course the risk for Brocade is we get labeled a naysayer or party-pooper. But I found it very interesting that not a single customer asked us about our response to UCS and very few had even heard about it. There are supposedly 10 UCS beta customers out there. Not sure what they are testing as Cisco admitted most of the products associated with UCS won’t be shipping till 2010. I also found it interesting that there are only 10 beta customers. Only 10 customers in the world seem interested enough to get early access to technology that supposedly solves just about every major IT problem the world has ever faced in one rack of semi-proprietary gear and some virtualization software. Hmmm…
Battle lines are drawn
Not surprisingly our OEM partners, IBM and HP are not amused with Cisco and UCS. Officially so far these respected industry giants have declined to say anything particularly nasty about UCS. Unofficially I believe they are seething. Cisco, for so long a strategic partner and ally, has basically taken aim at the core business of both companies and has openly stated they are going in to head long competition for the server, storage (with EMC) and network – in other words the whole IT market. Brocade’s position as an end to end network solutions provider that enables solutions built and delivered by the broadest ecosystem of partners in the industry has never been more relevant or more attractive to these and many other companies. We are on the side of open standards, open architecture, choice and supporting the decisions our customers make about which technology they chose, not dictating to them.
The tectonic plates in the IT industry definitely shifted with Cisco's announcement. Battle lines have been drawn. But normal business has already been resumed and fantasy has returned to reality as we and our partners go about trying to solve serious IT problems with serious technology. The market is listening to what we have to say and the contrast between us and our largest competitor could not be clearer.