back to article Hobbled by partners Dell and NetApp, where does Cisco go from here?

While HPE and Dell are concentrating on being better on-premises data centre suppliers in a hybrid cloud world, IBM on becoming a cognitive computing software supplier, and both Oracle and Microsoft on a move towards cloud, what is Cisco’s gameplan? Can the networking tiger from Tasman Drive evade evolutionary pressures …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Laundry list

    That list is just a who is who in the industry

    No way Cisco buys PAN, what for? Same with Nutanix. Nimble is a maybe, Pure is too expensive. NetApp as well, they are legacy.

    Splunk? maybe, but they just bought AppDynamics (I know, different space). RedHat? For what?

    ServiceNow is a possibility, it works really well with CliQr.

    I can see Cisco buying Veeam though

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Laundry list

      Agree, none of those acquisitions are really strategic... they would be other stuff to sell. If the public cloud (AWS, Google and sometimes Azure) or SDN or both blow a barrel sized hole in the side of Cisco's ship, they are not going be able to plug it with Splunk.

  2. Steve Chalmers

    Industry end state really isn't clear

    This decade we have seen a pendulum swing from traditional on-premises Enterprise gear, from traditional Enterprise vendors, through traditional Enterprise channels, toward cloud services, based on the same core technologies as the Enterprise gear but brutally disintermediating both the box builders and the sales channels.

    But what is the end state Cisco should invest towards? It is fundamentally an Enterprise selling play, its entire existence part of what I just said cloud is "brutally disintermediating". So does Cisco move toward being a technology provider (like Intel or Broadcom or Samsung), toward owning a software ecosystem (like Microsoft excluding Azure), or toward wrapping services around the cloud offerings of others? Or does Cisco double down on Enterprise, assuming there will be enough market left when the pendulum stops swinging to support itself in the style to which it is accustomed?

    There are two technology inflection points coming which Cisco could "bet the company" on. One is user space access to shared byte addressable storage class memory -- which is a really good reason not to commit to the past by buying one of today's storage leaders who won't be able to evolve through this transition. The other, which I can't articulate as well, is an evolution of networking away from traditional learning-and-moving-packets (I can sit at my PC and "ping" any location in the world -- default permit) toward planned connections (I install the gmail app on my smartphone, and the app has credentials which my service provider recognizes, allowing the app to open a connection to a gmail server -- which would otherwise be default deny). Look at what Fastly is doing at the CDN edge, or what Cisco ACI or VMware NSX or Calico are doing in the data center.

    The problem with both of these is they will require changes to the application -- a heresy in the Enterprise world -- and there is no certainty that a large investment will result in a critical mass of adoption by application writers (or at least those who provide storage and network services for containers or VMs). So a Cisco should probably sit back and wait for someone to win, then pay the huge premium to buy them, rather than trying to develop something revolutionary in house (or even in a captive spin-out-spin-in model as they did with Insieme).

    Will be interesting to watch all this over the next 20 years.

    @FStevenChalmers

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Industry end state really isn't clear

      I wouldn't say the public cloud is just a disintermediation of the OEMs and channel, but using the same gear. At least not proper public cloud. For instance, Google Cloud's internal interconnect network (Jupiter, custom built with a proprietary network protocol) runs at 1, moving to 2, petabits (200,000x your corner store Cisco Nexus 10g). It is spaceships vs bicycles. The on prem vendors, or "private cloud" as they would prefer to be called, have tried to make it seem as though it is six of one, half dozen of the other... just depends on whether you want to own a data center or not, but the reality is that the difference between the tech is enormous.

    2. JohnMartin

      Re: Industry end state really isn't clear

      User space access to "Shared Byte Addressable Storage Class Memory" .. (I'm getting lazy, and the rest of the cool kids at SNIA have decided to just say "Persistent Memory" .. http://www.snia.org/pm-summit) is going to need co-operation across the network, media, protocol and most importantly .. the application .. IMHO like the second of the two secular inflection points you pointed out, unless you change the way the devs consume the technology the best you can do is to make it look as much like the "old stuff" as possible. There will be a chunk of that going on (iSER .. SCSI over RDMA .. urghh) but the real transformation will happen when people use it the way it was envisioned, not as storage but as memory. That would probably have a bigger impact on DRAM Than "Storage" .. personally I think the end game is that the distinction between "memory" and "storage" will ultimately disappear, with the possible exception of large scale globally distributed object stores. Having said that, I don't think it will be a single vendor that will make that happen, though if there was I'd pick Intel to win that particular battle, having said that neither they, nor Cisco have the data services required to extract the full value from shared persistent memory. If we were to look at who might define that end state, I wouldn't put it past Amazon to be the first organisation to turn that kind of tech into a compelling customer value proposition without exposing the details of the infrastructure implementations to the end users/devs at all.

  3. EnviableOne Silver badge

    All the noise from Cisco is they are trying to pivot to software, but their dominant position in Networking hardware and its associated revenue is hard to kick.

    UCS is making some serious inroads in the server market, so the acquisition of one of the smaller storage vendors like Nimble, and possible borging of the remnants of McAfee from Intel looks to be a good play to give them a full stack, unless NetApp can be convinced to be assimilated in a Dell-EMC style merger of the old guard against the new.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    why would you buy old block LUN based storage

    when there are so many cool new storage solutions that don't require fiber channel and are much more cloud compatible?

  5. Gigabob

    A Chasm Looms

    The software business is less about tools than owning key applications like SAP, EPIC, databases like Oracle, DB2, SQL etc. Those applications owners are moving enterprise customers as fast as they can to the company owned clouds drawing down investment in local data center infrastructure. I fully expect the DELL/EMC merger to be challenged by this trend.

    The next two big trends are the increasing density and dropping cost for Solid state memory along with what happens to the network fabric in the growing cloud data centers at Azure, Google, Amazon, IBM and Oracle. With reported gains on search performance at Azure with their FPGA network fabric interfaces - we can see disintermediation of traditional block storage platforms for NVDIMM's distributed across hyper-smart fabrics in highly secured cloud data centers.

    I think Cisco and others see this trend moving forward - but are not moving fast enough and are challenged by current integration issues. Let's face it - Software is tough. You don't just cut and paste your way to a new operational model - you have to tear down legacy structures, which means reformatting data, and design new process models that leverage Remote Data Access to distributed NVDIMMS in arrays of servers connected using more efficient networking protocols.

    I see Intel, major cloud providers and core applications owners coming out winners. This leaves pure play infrastructure providers working hard to get a piece of the pie before it becomes a crumb. I don't think this is a 20 year transition easily less than 10 but more than 5.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As somebody who has some Nimble stock, I can only hope that Cisco would buy them. Or anybody for that matter.

    The stock has been so battered after that horrible Q3 earnings call back in 2015, I'm guessing the only way for NMBL to go up is for them to be acquired.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Generous Perspective

    That's a very generous perspective on EMC and their strategic decisions. They bought XtremIO, which has fizzled and is being sidelined in favor of going back to selling traditional VNX (now Unity) and VMAX. Just killed DSSD per your article earlier this week. "Innovated" with ViPR and SRM (Storage Resource Manager) but both of those solutions fell on deaf ears and never left the shelf. Invested heavily in application engineering resources to find that storage customers didn't often have app owners that involved in their purchases. Was the Dell purchase really a life raft that gave Joe Tucci a clean exit?

    But Cisco has struggled with strategy? The server business has been impacted by the cloud but last time I checked customers still need to connect out to the cloud so the networking business has been much less impacted as compared with the storage vendors pricing getting slashed by AWS and the like. Also, they've done a great job of building their security and collaboration portfolio to hedge in areas that customers are continuing to invest in. The market is volatile now but I've venture to say that Cisco has made much better bets than both EMC/Dell and HPE.

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