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Cisco Barges Into the Server Market 206

Posted by kdawson
from the unsheath-your-blades dept.
mikesd81 was one of several readers to write in about Cisco's announcement of what has been called Project California — a system comprising servers made from 64-bit Intel Nehalem EP Xeon processors, storage, and networking in a single rack, glued together with software from VMWare and BMC. Coverage of this announcement is everywhere. Business Week said: "The new device, dubbed Project California, takes servers into new territory by cramming computer power into the very box that contains storage capacity and the networking tools that are Cisco's specialty. Cisco's approach could help companies use fewer machines — saving money not only on hardware, but also on power and IT staffing — in building data centers. ... Cisco is well-girded to take this step. It has more than $30 billion in cash, more than any other tech company. The company is moving into no fewer than 28 different markets, including digital music in the home and public surveillance systems." The Register provides more analysis: "Microsoft is, of course, a partner on the California system, since you can't ignore Windows in the data center, and presumably, Hyper-V will be supported alongside ESX Server on the hypervisors. (No one at the Cisco launch answered that and many other questions seeking details). ... The one thing that Cisco is clear on is who is signing off on these deals: the CIO. Cisco and its partners are going right to the top to push the California systems, right over the heads of server, storage, and network managers who want to protect their own fiefdoms."
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Cisco Barges Into the Server Market

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  • by creimer (824291) on Monday March 16, 2009 @07:49PM (#27219155) Homepage
    Thought title said: "Costco Barges Into The Server Market". If so, I would've renewed my Costco card to get some cheap servers.
  • Huh!?!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 16, 2009 @07:50PM (#27219163)

    Cisco...saving money?!?! Right.

    • Re:Huh!?!? (Score:4, Informative)

      by 222 (551054) <stormseeker@RABB ... minus herbivore> on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @10:49AM (#27225189) Homepage
      About 4 years ago we upgraded to a Cisco VoIP telephony system. This enabled voice traffic between our sites (and to call local numbers at each site) to traverse our WAN instead of dealing with long distance charges. There has been significant ROI here. We've also deployed MeetingPlace Express, which has helped eliminate a lot of trips between sites, and increased training opportunities.

      Cisco is expensive, but their stuff is incredibly well supported, both by them and third parties. Our entire network infrastructure is Cisco, and I'm a fan of the "one throat to choke" approach. Engineers are more worried about solving my problems than blaming someone else.

      Even their lowest level of SMARTNet offers next day hardware replacement...

      You're correct in that Cisco is expensive up front, but in the big picture (at least for our organization) it's really not a bad deal.
      • by JLester (9518)

        We had a three-year payback on our CallManager system and are now saving several thousand dollars a year. Service is also better and we have in-house support and standardized phones/calling features across 20 sites.

        Jason

  • Redundancy (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 16, 2009 @07:54PM (#27219217)

    A server blade in a switch works WAY much better than a switch blade in a server...

    • by afidel (530433)
      Hehe, not likely unless you want to pay Cisco premiums for both the hardware AND the maintenance. I'll stick to my HP C-class blade enclosures TYVM. I get 3 years of 6 hour call to repair service for about 10% of the cost of the blade center, Cisco costs more than 10% per YEAR for SmartNet and it isn't nearly as good of service IMHO.
  • by ShooterNeo (555040) on Monday March 16, 2009 @08:00PM (#27219269)

    I have to ask : why Nehalem EP Xeons? Those are the absolute bleeding edge chips that Intel manufactures, and as such as the most expensive by a significant margin. Newegg doesn't even have the chip listed on their website, yet carries 91 different server CPU models. While space inside the data center does cost money, and so does electricity, is it really so expensive as to be worth paying for a chip that is probably 10 times as expensive per MIP as cheaper alternatives? The motherboards are more expensive as well, especially when you factor in the huge markup for server grade parts.

    The only advantage of the Nehalem is that it is SLIGHTLY faster per processing thread, but networking is usually an "embarassingly parallel" problem.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 16, 2009 @08:05PM (#27219325)

      haven't read the details, but intel probably put more virtualization logic into the CPU like they have been doing for the last few years. the price isn't that big a deal if you can put more VM's per CPU core than on the older chips

      • Good point. Justifying based on $/VM where the unit cost of VMs is lower would make it more attractive to the CFO. Toss in lower watt-hours pER NxVMs and it's a slam dunk depending where you are in your upgrade cycle.
        • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Monday March 16, 2009 @10:08PM (#27220527)

          There are limits. Running more VM's on a CPU costs power, and makes that physical device a single point of failure for multiple environments. Balancing such environments turns out to be much, much trickier than a lot of people like to admit: the very clever and sophisticated software to swap around live environments or do load balancing becomes its _own_ point of failure, bringing down entire racks of equipment in intermittent or even complete failures.

          And yes, I've had this happen with servers with "five nines" uptime lauded and promised but somehow, never actually written into the contract. It would have been a lot cheaper to simply do a regular backup schedule and have a second rack of more capable, cheaper, failover equipment.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by faedle (114018)

            This.

            I work for a company that resells an application that recommends DoubleTake for hot failover. While it does indeed work, it is an administrative nightmare and very difficult to set up PROPERLY. Plus, failback never works: it's much easier to just fail "forward".

            Now, the fault of a lot of this is the application, not DoubleTake. However, the solution always appears brittle, and the cost of "false failovers" is very high.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            You dont seem to be too familiar with vmware, and it's lack of single points of failure when implemented correctly. Sure, something can fai, but everything else should be able to pickup the slack.

            Also, when you're paying per CPU 3K for Vmware licenses, another 3k for MS datacenter licenses, and who knows how much for each license on on each virtual server instance.... that extra 30 watts you're worried about is NOTHING if you can cram 2 more virtual servers onto a CPU.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              I'm unfortunately familiar with VMware, both Workstation and ESX. ESX has real limitations on what hardware it runs on, and is usually sold as part of a package with that hardware. So what is a modest virtualization environment in a pizza box with a built-in SATA drive and maybe a Terabyte of external USB device for cheap storage for half a dozen OS's on a single server with a dumb SCSI array is suddenly a much more expensive, dual-supply system, with fiber channel back end, and another server to run the ma
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by ToasterMonkey (467067)

                In the first corner we have...
                VMWare ESX + HA, dual power supplies, fibre channel (read: real) SAN, shared SCSI(FCP) storage, centralized management console

                and the new challenger...
                Xen, single power supply, SATA, swappable USB storage for failover, command line

                Those are from two totally different divisions... planets... galaxies, what have you. You cannot compare the two.
                You don't actually talk someone out of a SAN and into buying USB storage, or from ESX+HA to physically swapping external storage. It do

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by scientus (1357317)

        yeah both AMD and Intel have direct IO from virutal machines in their newer chips, AMD in Phenom, but you need a expensive motherboard. Intel I guess was later with these Nehalems.

    • by ivicente (1373953) on Monday March 16, 2009 @08:23PM (#27219513)

      I have to ask : why Nehalem EP Xeons? (...) the most expensive by a significant margin. The motherboards are more expensive as well,

      Expensive - Cisco, so what's the part you don't understand?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pyite (140350)

      I have to ask : why Nehalem EP Xeons?

      Because they are there to make a splash with ridiculous specs. Specs that wouldn't be possible without Nehalem. They're innocent looking enough (we have a few), but they are here to make an impact.

    • by Zeio (325157) on Monday March 16, 2009 @08:54PM (#27219857)

      One of the main things that would make Nehalem attractive is a few things for blade servers. The process 45nm moving on to 32nm later will provide the smallest footprint while not giving up any CPU power. Also, the Nehalems (Bloomfield and Core i7) that I have tested don't seem to offer much in terms of better performance, but the power usage is considerably lower. Also, FB-DIMMS (and DDR2) were a bit too consumptive of power, the newer memory technology is an attempt to reduce power consumption. Also, the CPI (formerly CSI) offers the Intel CPUs a Hypertransport-like interconnect system allowing system builders to scale. The footprint of 16+ core systems with Nehalem will be far smaller than the previous generations of Xeon MP processors.

      I think the idea is more memory, more CPU processing power, less power and heat and scalability with a given architecture.

      I noticed in my testing the L1 Data and instruction caches (32KB per core) in the Core i7 is one cycle more latent than the core2 (4 cycles vs 3), the L2 cache (which is 256KB per core rather than the 4-6MB per two cores in Core2) is faster, down from 17 cycles to 12 cycles. With this boost in L2-speed came a cut of 3.75MB-5.75MB in size. The way they mitigated that loss was to give a "large" 8MB L3 cache that runs on a slower clock. This new system, along with a hyper-threading implementation that, unlike the previous one, seems to genuinely enhance performance in nearly every test, allows Intel to make top-performing chips (see CPU 2006 @ spec.org for the latest results) that scale better via QPI, use less power and fit into smaller spaces than previous chips.

      See:
      Sorted SPEC CPU2006 Integer and Floating Point [spec.org]

      CINT2006
      Hardware Vendor System Result Baseline # Cores # Chips # Cores Per Chip Published Disclosure
      1) YOYOtech Fi7EPOWER MLK1610 (Intel Core i7-965) 36.0 32.5 4 1 4 Jan-2009
      2) ASUSTeK Computer Inc. ASUS P6T WS PRO workstation motherboard (Intel Core i7-965 Extreme Edition) 35.2 31.5 4 1 4
      3) ASUSTeK Computer Inc. Asus P6T Deluxe (Intel Core i7-965 Extreme Edition) 33.6 30.2 4 1 4 Nov-2008
      4) ASUSTeK Computer Inc. Asus P6T Deluxe (Intel Core i7-940) 30.8 27.8 4 1 4
      5) Dell Inc. Dell Precision T7400 (Intel Xeon X5492, 3.40 GHz) 30.2 27.6 8 2 4

      CFP2006
      Hardware Vendor System Result Baseline # Cores # Chips # Cores Per Chip Published Disclosure
      1) ASUSTeK Computer Inc. ASUS P6T WS PRO workstation motherboard (Intel Core i7-965 Extreme Edition) 39.3 37.4 4 1 4 Feb-2009
      2) YOYOtech Fi7EPOWER MLK1610 (Intel Core i7-965) 35.7 33.6 4 1 4 Jan-2009
      3)ASUSTeK Computer Inc. Asus P6T Deluxe (Intel Core i7-965 Extreme Edition) 33.6

    • by trims (10010) on Monday March 16, 2009 @09:41PM (#27220287) Homepage

      I work for Sun, and have been beta testing Nehalems for almost a year now.

      Sun is also the PRIMARY Nehalem vendor for Intel. We got the special treatment (I don't know how), but we get to be the first real Tier-1 vendor shipping Nehalems, and let me tell you that Intel has helped us a lot in hardware integration and software tuning.

      The end result is that Nehalem EP (which are dual-socket systems) is significantly faster than any of the Core2 series, and spanks even the AMD Shanghais. They've gone to the on-chip memory controller ala Opterons, and it's helped considerably. In addition, they've redone the interconnect bus to make is much more HyperTransport-ish (though HT 3.x is still superior) - it's called QuickPath Interconnect. The overall result is much better performance under load, even for single-threaded apps.

      For an application such as Virtualization, Nehalems are well worth the $$$. You get considerably better loaded performance than previous Intel CPUs, and with VMs, high system utilization is the GOAL. Up until now, AMDs were considerably better than Intel chips under high load, but the Nehalems just stole the dual-socket crown back.

      I'm still waiting to get my hands on the EX series (quad-socket), so I don't know how they'll compare to AMD's 8000-series. Be interesting to see.

      -Erik

    • by afidel (530433)
      It's WAY faster than the equivalent $ chips today. Two Xeon 5570's get 25,000 SAPS vs FOUR Xeon 7460's (that cost twice as much each) getting 25,830. They really are that much better, and I can't wait till HP starts shipping the DL380 G6 at the end of this month because I have a bunch of projects that can really use that kind of compute density and performance per core (damn Oracle licensing).
    • [...] a chip that is probably 10 times as expensive per MIP as cheaper alternatives

      What's MIP? "Million Instructions Per"?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ShooterNeo (555040)
        Actually, that unit is fine. If you're comparing two alternatives, you just need to make sure the time unit is the same. It could be million instructions per hour, second, million years, whatever. Doesn't matter.
    • Its called price fixing to make everyone involved alot of money, don't you remember ram from kingston, or panasonic lcds....this system will always keep on going in north america...
      they always try to bleed as much money from technology before going to the next alternative instead of just jumping straight to the new stuff...it took us 2 years before having video phones, while they were already 2 years ahead in Japan with them...how could we be so far behind....don't even get started on cellular coverage prov

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I have to ask : why Nehalem EP Xeons?

      Because if you are a networking hardware vendor looking to crash the server hardware vendors' party, you don't engineer your product with yesterday's technology. Cisco is in a cash position where they could sell this as a loss leader to get their foot in the door, or at least until the price on the components come down as the Nehalem becomes more competitive.

      Not to mention, the cost of the cpu components themselves is a relatively small portion of the overall cost of a system this size. Maybe in a low-e

  • Sounds expensive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by benjamindees (441808) on Monday March 16, 2009 @08:01PM (#27219279) Homepage

    Sounds like the right architecture, but at a price.

    It amazes me that so many "enterprise" IT companies can sell what are essentially just Linux servers [networkworld.com] with their brand name tacked-on, at a 5000% mark-up.

    • by rsborg (111459)

      It amazes me that so many "enterprise" IT companies can sell what are essentially just Linux servers with their brand name tacked-on, at a 5000% mark-up.

      Don't knock it, it's just the Enterprice [slashdot.org]!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 16, 2009 @08:44PM (#27219757)

      I used to think along the same lines as you, that with 'reasonably competent' administration, it's all a wash.

      And now after a stint in the industry, I've realized a lot of the industry is unable or unwilling to invest what is required to make effective use of hardware. The stuff in general can be complex and many companies are content to pay a premium to the vendor to tap into their aggregated skills rather than probably pay even more to have architects of their own with the experience and skills to match the vendor.

      In this case, they are dressing up some core technologies that are pretty well understood, wrapping up it all with a lot of buzzwords, and pushing forward. The technical cynic in me shrugs, but I recognize what they *claim* to be trying to do may be valuable to some people.

      That said, after years of struggling with Cisco's repeated decisions to support their proprietary standards to the exclusion of industry standards make me not want to touch their equipment or embrace any 'full management' stack they would want to give me. Some of it does the job sufficiently, but buying into a platform that makes it difficult to entertain competing product is something I like to avoid.

    • by drsmithy (35869)

      It amazes me that so many "enterprise" IT companies can sell what are essentially just Linux servers [networkworld.com] with their brand name tacked-on, at a 5000% mark-up.

      Wait, isn't that what RMS keeps telling us is awesome ?

  • it's 2009, years after we were supposed to have flying cars, most new computers are 64bit, and Cisco refuses to release a 64bit IPSec client For x64 (64-bit) Windows support, you must utilize Cisco's next-generation Cisco AnyConnect VPN Client." [cisco.com]. So umm...we're supposed to think they have any clue what's going on above layer 4 these days? What are they going to be installing on these servers, Windows2000?

  • by SethJohnson (112166) on Monday March 16, 2009 @08:07PM (#27219347) Homepage Journal


    Not sure that Cisco is such a lone cash giant as suggested. Apple has $28 billion in reserves as of Jan 22, 2009 [wsj.com]. With the recent economic fiasco, both Cisco and Apple might be in different positions.

    It has more than $30 billion in cash, more than any other tech company.

    Seth
  • This "barges" idea sounds like the next logical step.

  • by mbone (558574) on Monday March 16, 2009 @08:25PM (#27219549)

    Microsoft is, of course, a partner on the California system, since you can't ignore Windows in the data center

    Microsoft is supposed to have about 30% of the server market [netcraft.com], so I am not sure I get that of course.

    • by Kinky Bass Junk (880011) on Monday March 16, 2009 @08:40PM (#27219717)
      Server != Web Server

      There are many different reasons you might want a server, web presence is only one.
    • Because a Windows VM floating in the sea of VMs means not having to buy another frickin' box just to run frickin' Windows.
    • by Hyppy (74366)
      Try telling a corporate office that they can't have Exchange anymore. Or, that their business software package and all of its customized plugins should be replaced. Or, that they need to port all of their MS SQL databases to PostGRE or MySQL, and find the talent to manage them on the new systems.

      Then you'll understand why MS has such a stranglehold in corporate IT.
  • Blah Blah Blah (Score:3, Insightful)

    by oldr4ver (1192469) on Monday March 16, 2009 @08:29PM (#27219591)
    They'll fail at this, like they failed in Wireless Security. Cisco should stick to what they know, network infrastructure and backbone support. They suck at everything else.
    • Re:Blah Blah Blah (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pyite (140350) on Monday March 16, 2009 @08:40PM (#27219721)

      They suck at everything else.

      Not everything they do is perfect, but they broke into the Fibre Channel switching business quite effectively. They can, and do, break into new markets. Servers are a logical step for them since there's a huge advantage to providing a vertical stack of networking, servers, and whatever else they can muster.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MightyMartian (840721)

        Not everything they do is perfect, but they broke into the Fibre Channel switching business quite effectively. They can, and do, break into new markets. Servers are a logical step for them since there's a huge advantage to providing a vertical stack of networking, servers, and whatever else they can muster.

        Yes, at prices that will make high-end Server 2008 enterprise installs look cheap.

      • But from what I've seen, their server technology appears relatively weak. I.e. their blades appear less dense than 1U servers. I'm not surprised though, in recent history even in their core competency of networking, density and performance have not been impressive compared to competition.

        I think the same end could have been achieved by pulling together a partnership. Then again, they already have enough high-margin vendors in play to probably price this thing out there without pulling in yet another comp

        • by Junta (36770)

          I will say, in their defense, a pure Cisco network from a managability perspective is easy to look after compared to the alternatives. Cisco retains technical justification for their reputation.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by pyite (140350)

          But from what I've seen, their server technology appears relatively weak. I.e. their blades appear less dense than 1U servers.

          Not true. It's 6U for 8 blades. I just took a look at the chassis that I have access to. Now, HP c7000 is better density than this at 16 blades in 10U. But I just want to be clear, Cisco's chassis is not less dense than 1U servers.

        • by Chang (2714)
          The Cisco blades are going to support 192GB of RAM which is one of the most important constraints on a VM host box. For the density and form factor this is better than the competition at the moment but I have no doubt HP, IBM, and Dell will respond quickly to keep their customers in line.
      • by davecb (6526) *

        Boy, break into a low-margin area, one with 45% to as low as 10% gross margins, from a 60% area of the industry.

        I think one should probably do the opposite, with low-wattage ARM Linux chips running routing software. After all, the ARPAnet started with custom NIMs because only they were fast enough, but later went to cheap Unix boxes for cost reasons. Now one should be able to do some pretty fast routing with modern processors, and make the same move for exactly the same reasons.

        --dave

      • by afidel (530433)
        Gah, their FC switches suck balls, and I have four back to back days with 4 hours or less sleep to show for it. Once we ripped out the Cisco POS's and replaced them with Brocades we are back to months without a peep out of our SAN. I will NEVER again buy Cisco FC switches and have made it my mission to tell everyone I can about them. Cisco massively oversubscribes almost all of the FC switches and even the ones that aren't have insufficient buffer 2 buffer pools in the ASIC to support real world full speed
      • by rcw-home (122017)

        They can, and do, break into new markets

        Yes, by buying out a company or two in that market, rebranding their product line, and doing very little to make it work similarly to their existing products (or interoperate with their existing products) for several product generations.

        Caveat emptor.

    • by 222 (551054)
      Citation needed...

      I deal with a variety of Cisco products, and am almost always happy.
  • The one thing that Cisco is clear on is who is signing off on these deals: the CIO. Cisco and its partners are going right to the top to push the California systems, right over the heads of server, storage, and network managers who want to protect their own fiefdoms.

    Presumably, they are doing this because they know that the CIOs, on average, are less well informed than their technical subordinates. It is a classic salesman's tactic: go straight to the "decision maker." I'm not saying that CIOs are not well qualified and intelligent people (I'm sure that most are). However, at the CxO level in a large company, you are a strategic thinker. You are most likely not going to be on the bleeding edge of the latest hardware trend.

    To put it another way, the CIO is the "soft" target. You always go for the soft target.

    Naturally, Cisco (and other vendors) know this. Hence, you go after the CIO and dazzle him with fancy presentations and wine and dine him and viola, you get a big sale. This how MS does it, and how other big tech companies do it.

    If you are fortunate enough to have the ear of your CIO, make sure to warn him about snake oil peddlers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      "I'm not saying that CIOs are not well qualified and intelligent people (I'm sure that most are)."
      Despite what your ID number says; you are new around here, aren't you?
    • by OddlyMoving (1103849) on Monday March 16, 2009 @09:22PM (#27220131)

      This is very true. I am currently evaluating a forklift upgrade of one of my POPs, and we're looking at the Cisco vs. Juniper proposition.

      While I'm a VP level operational head at an ISP, the Cisco rep told me straight out that he doesn't typically engage technical people like me when he comes in. He typically talks to the C level people, and it shows, because he's not keeping up with the Juniper rep. The Juniper team has already put me in front of many technical product development people, and the depth of the conversations have been truly refreshing. I'm feeling more and more comfortable with going Juniper as the days go by.

    • by micheas (231635)

      I know several COO's and former COO's and most of them were true geeks. (as in running there own custom linux on their home wireless access points, giving their curtains IPV6 addresses, grabbing manufacturing samples of chips to solder in to increase the memory of they PDA's, pocketing some of the old lead solder that their company was getting rid of for their home workshop, etc.).

      I suspect that is why they advertised going to the CIO's and were silent about the COO's.

  • A good move (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jjeff1 (636051) on Monday March 16, 2009 @08:40PM (#27219713)
    Cisco has been quietly working towards this for a while. You can get a server module for the lowly 1800 series router.

    For large networks and satellite office, you have a server or 2, a phone system, network gear, maybe some video surveillance gear. They'll walk into the CIO's office and say:
    "you have all this gear from different vendors, with different support contracts and different departments finger pointing when problems arise."

    "Now here is the cisco way, one box, one department, one vendor to call. Stick it in a closet and forget about it. Let us show you all our management tools which show everything in a single pane of glass"

    If they do it right, it'll make for a very slick demo.

    This is their attempt to do the same in the datacenter.
    • "Now here is the cisco way, one box, one department, one vendor to call.

      Mmm, maybe. I've found the "one bum to kick" is generally an SI or services firm, not a single vendor.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rcw-home (122017)

        Mmm, maybe. I've found the "one bum to kick" is generally an SI or services firm, not a single vendor.

        Exactly. The grandparent's argument falls on its face as soon as you hook up your do-everything-box to a telco circuit.

    • I think both Dell and HP can sell a total solution with their badge throughout. Dell admittedly isn't much on 'total stack support', but HP certainly is in that game.

      One could argue that the HP rebadged switches are not 'cisco'-good, but by the same token I'll wager the Cisco-servers aren't 'HP'-good.

      Conspicuously absent from that game is of course IBM, which hasn't had it's name on a piece of non-blade networking equipment in a long time and after the whole Lenovo thing, really isn't in a position to offe

      • by afidel (530433)
        The HP blade solution is superior because even if you want Cisco switches they are available for the C-class enclosures.
  • Now I'll have to get yet another certification.

    "Yes, I am a Cisco Certified Integrated Server Professional.
  • by CFD339 (795926) <andrewp@@@thenorth...com> on Monday March 16, 2009 @08:44PM (#27219753) Homepage Journal

    Amazing stuff.

    by cramming computer power into the very box that contains storage capacity and the networking tools

    I'm stunned. One box, with processor, storage, and networking -- ALL TOGETHER in one package. Who would have thought that would be possible?

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      I'm stunned. One box, with processor, storage, and networking -- ALL TOGETHER in one package. Who would have thought that would be possible?

      Every /.er running linux on an old P266 with a network card?

    • Yeah, I couldn't get that either...

      Then I thought maybe they're trying to cram a storage array and a switch into the same box. With the proper virtualization engine, you'd essentially have a data center in a box. Right now we can sort of do this with blades. Need a new server? Just pop in a blade. But with everything virtualized it becomes even easier. Need a new server? Just configure one in the GUI.

  • by dweller_below (136040) on Monday March 16, 2009 @08:53PM (#27219845)

    Yep. That's the Cisco I know and loath. If you can't convince the literate, just move up the org chart.

    Years ago, at my institution (150+ buildings, about 15K active IP addresses,) we did a cost analysis of our Cisco addition and decided that it was unnecessary. We could do everything we needed with cheaper, commodity devices.

    So, for the next couple years, all upgrades/replacements were to simpler structures. To non-proprietary protocols. And to non-Cisco equipment. We have been Cisco-Free for about 4 years.

    The hardest part was beating off the attacks from Cisco Sales. These attacks were vicious. They lied (even more than usual for Cisco sales droids.) They tried their best to discredit us. First they approached the head of IT. Then the VP for Business. Then the president.

    Finally, they went to the Board of Regents. They said we were incompetent. They said our actions were endangering the future of our institution. Fortunately, the Regents decided to let us try it.

    It has worked out great for us. Our capability is up. Our reliability is way up. Our security is up. Our costs are down (about 1/2 the price of equivalent Cisco.)

    But, it only happened because upper management was willing to trust us. I get the impression that most management would fold under the pressure we saw.

    Miles

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MightyMartian (840721)

      At the small ISP I worked at, we pretty much bought into Cisco for several years. We had an AS5200 PRI for our full 56k PRI lines, and a 3000 series model (can't recall which one) as our gateway router. This worked fine until we started rolling out some more advanced networking, such as proprietary 900mhz and 2.4ghz wireless. Suddenly we were faced with either having to upgrade this equipment (some of it not so young), and the costs were not insignificant.

      I asked my boss to give me a couple of weeks to s

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Now I fully realize that software routing just isn't as good as Cisco's hardware routing

        Depends which box you're talking about but sometimes "hardware routing" is just software routing on an embedded processor. Something to keep in mind.

      • Whatever performance boost we'd get from Cisco hardware (or Nortel or whatever) simply couldn't justify the vast difference in pricing

        I'm not a network guru, but isn't there a lot more to it than plain performance? I'm thinking about easy to set up redundancy, fast recovery (fast booting), low power usage, stability, less moving parts etc.

        These are all pretty bad with standard PC equipment.

        • by Znork (31774)

          Depends on what you mean with standard PC equipment.

          Very low power can be accomplished with, for example, VIA or Atom. You get fast recovery by stripping a linux dist down to the initrd plus whatever you actually need, or possibly even a pre-hibernated image if you're stateless. Stability is best accomplished by using standardized parts tested by millions before you (frankly, I'd say standard PC equipment tends to be significantly more stable than proprietary hardware, but that's just my experience). Less m

  • If any one word could describe Cisco's project as over-priced, over-rated, inflexible and completely about name brand recognition without substance, it would be California.

    There are lots of nice things about California, but without question, it is way too expensive to live there. The taxes are out of control. And no matter which side of the fence you live on, California is filled with whack jobs and shallow people... just like Cisco.

    I have been re-examining what Cisco brings compared to what other inexpen

  • Check-out time is, uh....
  • Not a surprise (Score:2, Interesting)

    by monschein (1232572)
    Cisco might have a good shot at this. Project California might look appetizing to a lot of IT departments. Virtualization and consolidation is on the agenda for a lot of datacenters at the moment. All of these functions in one box, in one rack, AND easily manageable would appeal to a lot of CIOs. Deal with one vender instead of three - and a reputable vendor at that. Knowing Cisco, it will most likely be a bit pricey. But hey, no one ever got fired for buying Cisco right? On the other hand, a lot of peop
  • It's Cisco. Their product won't be cheap. As an infrastructure engineer that is having to stretch the hell out of the dollar. I've found myself purchasing far less Cisco products and a lot more of the alternatives. Today, small scale scaling out for the most part has become pizza box servers and Juniper networking. Pizza box because I can get far more bang for the buck buying a full rack of dual quad core Dell PE1950s for less than I can buy a decked out IBM S chassis for. That consists of 6 servers and 12

    • by Jaime2 (824950)
      With an HP c-class chassis, you can get 80 cores, 320GB of RAM, and 5TB of iSCSI storage in one package for about $70,000 retail. Ten HP BL460s plus the chassis costs about the same as ten PE1950s, saves 6U, uses less power, fewer cables to manage, fewer network ports needed (you can get away with as little as one trunk and one management port). For a fully redundant configuration, you can use two trunks and two management ports instead of 20 server ports and 10 management ports for the 1U servers. That
      • by drsmithy (35869)

        Ten HP BL460s plus the chassis costs about the same as ten PE1950s, saves 6U, uses less power, fewer cables to manage, fewer network ports needed (you can get away with as little as one trunk and one management port).

        Wouldn't it make a bit more sense to compare it to a Dell M1000e and M60x blades ?

        Probably wouldn't sound quite as good though...

  • by trims (10010) on Monday March 16, 2009 @09:26PM (#27220193) Homepage

    OK. My bias up front - I work for Sun.

    That said, there were several pre-Cisco-announcements from HP, IBM, and Sun about how the California system is a no-go. Admittedly, they're the competitors for Cisco, but after having looked at the existing rack blade/switch systems from those three vendors, I really don't see any difference worth mentioning from current product lines.

    Here's some thoughts:

    • IBM and Sun make much more Open systems, able to run a wide variety of vmWare, Linux, Solaris, and even AIX on all sorts of hardware (SPARC, POWER, PPC, all sorts of AMD and Intel x64). Their systems are much more flexible and honestly, much more powerful overall in what can be accomplished.
    • HP has much of the HW flexibility of Sun and IBM, plus the leading management tools.
    • Cisco has no clue as to how to run a systems support organization, which, frankly, is considerably different than running a network hardware support organization. The other big three have decades each in doing this kind of thing.
    • Sun in particular has extremely competitive pricing. HP and IBM are slightly more expensive, but nothing compared to the margins Cisco charges. So, exactly WHAT are people going to get for the 20-40% premium Cisco is charging over IBM?
    • Even for the Virtualization craze, building a completely proprietary solution flies in the face of what everyone else in the industry is doing: commoditization.
    • Cisco doesn't have integrated solutions. All the others provide storage, network, and compute integration with large, well-trained Professional Services orgs. Cisco has CCIEs in piles, but what do they know about anything but network gear?

    Overall, this looks like a stupid move. I realize that Cisco needs to look for more revenue streams in the face of the commoditizing of most network gear, but this seems like an '80s solution to a 2010 problem.

    -Erik

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by SL Baur (19540)

      OK, my bias up front, I work for Cisco, though not directly in the California project.

      Cisco doesn't have integrated solutions. All the others provide storage, network, and compute integration with large, well-trained Professional Services orgs. Cisco has CCIEs in piles, but what do they know about anything but network gear?

      Cisco has people like me and I'm far from alone.

      I'm very picky about where I accept employment from and I CHOSE to work at Cisco even though I despise Northern California. For whatever it's worth.

  • How the heck can _Cisco_ get into the server market...most of their hardware is rebranded HP stuff!

    • by fostware (551290)

      Doh! No mod points...

      It's funny when we roll out a CallManager and HP site, and even the customer notices the similarity.

  • And sucks hard. They ship mutually incompatible binaries on the same CD. The installer itself will bomb. They suck. Did I mention, they suck?

  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @07:50AM (#27223289)

    Any interface or management tools for such virtualized pool systems, brought to you by the company that wrote and maintains IOSS, already has a serious hurdle to jump. That language is very, very clever and flexible. It is also absolutely awful for attempting to do simple, straightforward configuration tasks that _look_ like they should work from the documentation, but which extra steps to actually provide and can only be done directly from the text interface, not from _any_ of the GUI's. (I spent some time trying to configure proper failover behavior last year on a set of switches. It was painful.)

    If their virtualization management tools are similarly powerful, flexible, and utterly useless to anyone not a highly trained Cisco technician, then these systems will be very expensive and under-utilized doorstops in most environments. If, however, they've fired the fools who wrote the IOS control language and replaced them with people being fired by Juniper and thus raised the IQ at both companies, then they have a chance to fill a serious niche in environments like Wal-Mart, where a centrally managed and flexible system could manage inventory, sales registers, their highly automated security and power management, and personnel records. Putting all those on different servers provided by different vendors is nightmarish to manage: having a consistent, virtualized hardware environment makes hardware repairs and upgrades far, far more efficient, in my experience.

    And let's face it: when I've looked at the stock room at such a facility, I've often seen a server or desktop stashed under someone's desk, lying on top of a card table in a corner where it never got mounted but is still in use, or miscabled and unscrewed down with only one plug in on top of a rack with an overloaded UPS. Simplifying and modularizing that for such an environment would be a big headache that I wouldn't have to have for dealing with such partners and clients. (I highly recommend taking a cell phone and taking pictures of such setups to let their head office know there is a problem.)

  • Great!

    Now the Chinese government has storage as well as firewall technology all in one unit to track down and torture/imprison anyone it doesn't like using the internet.

    It just makes it so gosh darn convenient.

    I junked all of my Cisco gear in my enterprise, so GOOD LUCK getting the CIO to look at his Linux network/server infrastructure and replace it with over priced, under performing gear in this business climate.

    LA DE DA DA.

    -Hack

    • by faedle (114018)

      Now the Chinese government has storage as well as firewall technology all in one unit to track down and torture/imprison anyone it doesn't like using the internet.

      They've had it for quite some time [wikipedia.org], actually.

  • It could work out well for everyone.

    But here's a way the industry can work, in that, Microsoft gets to be the "bad" guy to protect the hardware vendors of today from new competition. I can imagine IBM, Dell, HP all giving Microsoft a call, and asking them for Cisco-like networking and storage administration features for Windows Server. It's a tough market for Microsoft to break into but ... they could do it. Microsoft also works with hardware vendors to get more and more packet slicing features into hardw

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