Scott Lowe wrote an interesting blog today wondering if Sun was preparing to take on Cisco in the virtualization space, referencing the development of virtualized networking functionality featuring the novel combination of commodity hardware and open source software to unseat the Jolly Green Giant:
A while back in Virtualization Short Take #25 I briefly mentioned Sun’s Crossbow network virtualization software, which brings new possibilities to the Solaris networking world. Not being a Solaris expert, it was hard for me at the time to really understand why Solaris fans were so excited about it; since then, though, I’ve come to understand that Crossbow brings to Solaris the same kind of full-blown virtual network interfaces and such that I use daily with VMware ESX. Now I’m beginning to understand why people are so thrilled!
In any case, an astute reader picked up on my mention of Crossbow and pointed me to this article by Jonathan Schwartz of Sun, and in particular this phrase:
You’re going to see an accelerating series of announcements over the coming year, from amplifying our open source storage offerings, to building out an equivalent portfolio of products in the networking space…
That seemingly innocuous mention was then coupled with this blog post and the result was this question: is Sun preparing to take on Cisco? Is Sun getting ready to try to use commodity hardware and open source software to penetrate the networking market in the same way that they are using commodity hardware and open source software to try to further penetrate the storage market with their open storage products (in particular, the 7000 series)?
It's really the last paragraph that is of interest to me, specifically the boldfaced sentence I highlighted. I think the "rumors" have pretty much been substantiated by the mainstream press, so let's assume "California" is going to happen.
It’s an interesting thought, to say the least. Going up against Cisco is a bold move, though, and I question Sun’s staying power in that sort of battle. Of course, with Cisco potentially distracted by the swirling rumors regarding the networking giant’s entry into the server market, now may be the best time to make this move.
- I don't know how anyone can think that Cisco is "distracted" by bringing to market the logical extension of virtualized infrastructure -- the compute function -- as anything other than a shrewd business decision to offer a complete end-to-end solution to customers. I talked about it here in blog post titled "Cisco Is NOT Getting Into the Server Business..." This is an Enterprise Architecture play, pure and simple.
- Honestly, if we're discussing commoditization, a server is a server is a server, whether it's in a blade form factor or not, and it's not like Cisco has to worry about building things from scratch. The availability of OEM/ODM components (raw or otherwise) means they don't have to start from scratch. Oh yes, I know HP spent a bazillion dollars on C-Class fan engineering and IBM's BCHT is teh awesome and...
- The whole game is Unified Computing; bringing together enterprise class compute, network and storage as a solution with integrated virtualization, management and intelligence; you take the biggest pain point out of the equation -- integration -- and you drive down cost while increasing utility, agility and efficiency.
- If you look at what "California" is slated to deliver it's hard to see how Sun would compete: A blade based chassis with integrated Nexus converged networking/storage, integrated virtualization from VMware (with Nexus/VN-Link,) and management from BMC. You know, Enterprise stuff, not integration hodge podge.