Cisco Edging Into Virtualization With Blades Page 2

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Built for virtualization

The source went on to say that Cisco has no interest in the broad, general purpose market for blades, only for virtualized systems. Analysts noted that most blades are virtualized anyway, making them de facto mass market products.

"On any blades run now, people are running virtual workloads," said Andi Mann, senior analyst with Enterprise Management Associates. But he added "this does not sound like just a copycat move and trying to get into a market someone else owns. This is Cisco looking at the market and extending it in their own way."

Gordon Haff, principal IT advisor with Illuminata, felt the same way, and is less sold on the idea. "If you leave aside high performance computing, that's like saying you're going after where all servers are going," he told InternetNews.com. "The direction for mainstream servers will be to be virtualized. I don't see that as a tiny niche of servers."

The vast amount of memory would make it ideal for putting up to 100 virtual machines on the server, a problem blades currently have in that due to memory constraints, they can only run so many virtual machines.

By using Core i7 instead of Xeon, Cisco gets DDR3 memory, which is much faster than DDR2 and draws less power. It's also a much lower power draw than FBDIMM used in current Xeons, which draw much more power than DDR memory and run hotter.

Also, the Core i7 has the new QuickPath Interconnect, which allows for much greater bandwidth than any prior x86 processor, greatly improving memory performance. After I/O, memory performance is the second biggest issue vexing virtualized servers.

The goal of Cisco's Project California is to remove the bottlenecks of virtualization, at the memory and adapter levels. The faster Core i7 and large amount of memory will improve performance within the blade, and the connection to Unified Fabric will make it easier to move data in and out of the blade, as well as moving virtual machines around with VMware's VMotion.

The two analysts were split in their view of the features and strategy. "This makes those blades extremely agile on how they can move resources around," said Mann. "The bottlenecks on blades are network traffic. Saturation of the network is much more of a problem then saturation of memory. This gives enterprises an extremely efficient way of using computer resources that utilize network connections and storage connections."

Hoff is not sold. "I can appreciate the general point Cisco is making, going after a specific class of servers, probably relatively higher-priced and higher margins. But I will point out that a niche strategy has not been an effective strategy for server makers for the past decade," he said.

"I can't think of a good example of a large storage vendor who has gone into storage servers in a niche way."

Next page: Returning fire at HP?

This article was originally published on Feb 13, 2009
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