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September, 2013

Cisco Starts Showing Its SDDC Hand – Acquires WHIPTAIL

Well…well…well.  This morning when I jumped on Twitter I saw a few tweets that weren’t totally unexpected.  They were concerning Cisco acquiring a storage company.  How long have we heard rumors about them being interested in NetApp?  Then over the last year or so the rumors about Nimble have been loud and often so when I saw a tweet that said “I guess Cisco is now in the storage business!” I assumed it was Nimble.  Wrong.

We’ll come back to that in a minute.  But first, Why?  That’s the question everyone is asking today and it’s already one I’m being asked like Chambers called me up to brief me.  But there are many different things going on at Cisco and I’ve had a few “off the record” conversations today.  The bottom line is that Cisco is extending SDDC further than many have expected.  It’s not just about SDN or SDS (Software Defined Servers – Cisco UCS and Service Profiles).  They want to software define everything and they don’t feel they can do that without owning at least some part of the storage piece.

CIsco hasn’t said a lot about Insieme, the spin-out SDN/ACI (Application Centric Infrastructure) focused company.  But I think we’re going to start hearing more and more about that and this acquisition will make more sense over time as that entire strategy starts to gel.  Until then this just makes for interesting conversation.  But…the push to get the Insieme developed products has quickened so it’s going to be sooner rather than later.

Is this a shot across the bow to EMC/VMware?  I don’t think so.  In my opinion if it was they’d have chosen differently and that leads us to the discussion around “Why WHIPTAIL?”.  If Cisco really wanted to ruffle feathers they’d have gone with a platform with a wider use case like the previously considered Nimble.  Instead you need to think about this outside the constructs of just general storage…even high-speed general storage.  It’s about low-latency application performance which gives you some insight as to why WHIPTAIL.

WHIPTAIL provides a platform that already speaks many protocols.  FC, iSCSI, CIFS, NFS, and SCSI RDMA along with Infiniband.  This adds up to a pretty interesting low-latency play for Cisco and one that isn’t just confined to the virtual space (such as Tintri).  Depending on how deep they go here it may be a niche move for some very latency sensitive applications (think trading applications) or just a great platform to accelerate all applications by putting an all flash array out there…possibly as a cache tier (ala Project Thunder from EMC) or just flash storage.  Then you layer on Cisco’s SDDC vision to make that totally software defined and you get a pretty interesting overall strategy.

WHIPTAIL will be in the UCS business unit and as Stu mentions here it is going to be a UCS-first push and then position WHIPTAIL.  Word is that we’ll see Cisco branded/sold WHIPTAIL in its current form but that will change over time and become more integrated with the rest of Cisco’s SDDC strategy.  This initial foray in to storage may cause friction with the usual players that Cisco works with but I thnk it will be hard to convince many existing storage partners to go that direction.  A pure Cisco partner may have different ideas, but do they have the relationships within their customer bases to do anything?

Is Cisco making the right move?  If Chad Sakac isn’t sure (or at least won’t say) here how can we mere mortals be expected to know?  We don’t…but their overall plans are starting to take shape.  My personal opinion is that Cisco will have a hard time convincing people to let them own all these pieces of the datacenter and much of it will come down to how well they play with others.  Either way, Cisco is putting together a pretty good hand of cards across SDN, SDDC, networking hardware, server hardware, automation (CIAC and UCS Director/Cloupia), and more.

7 thoughts on “Cisco Starts Showing Its SDDC Hand – Acquires WHIPTAIL”

  1. Why whiptail indeed. I’ve never known Cisco to care about Infiniband. I’m all for more people switching to infiniband, but so far Cisco has seemed bound and determined to push unified networking via ethernet instead.

  2. Why WhipTail? Because they invested in WhipTail from the beginning. Cisco is not done, they will more than likely purchase a software storage company to leverage UCS to scale out (not that hard to port Nutanix to UCS). They are over due to releasing a storage blade. XtremeIO, ScaleIO and Isilon are EMC’s managed service play against the Amazon’s of the world and Cisco knows it and it doesn’t involve them. Watch for Cisco to get closer to Citrix. Also, with little fanfair, Cisco just closed th deal with Composite Software, check out what does. WhipTail is just dipping toes and getting the feet wet. Make no mistake…..Cisco owns the ip network, owns the data network, on its way to owning the compute (not before long before IBM gets out or oems UCS) Dell is getting out now the Michael owns it the company. And now, Cisco will attempt to own the data….which is the keys to kingdom and final piece of puzzle. The the other shoe(s) that have yet to drop is what does Juniper, Arista and Riverbed do? Riverbed went all in on a horrendous purchase of OpNet. It wasn’t long ago that Juniper’s stock was on the rise on rumors of an EMC purchase…may that will start up again. And while we’re RedHat may get smart and purchase Coraid and strap Gluster on top of it. Or Cisco can go all all in a buy RedHat, own the OS and virtualization. Sitting on 50 Billion in the bank for Cisco. It will be spent wisely..

  3. EMC is back to almost sole sourcing hardware with their flash card (Virident) now owned by WD who also owns HGST. Seagate is almost a non player but will more than likely buy Fision-IO on the cheap as it’s falling off a cliff. EMC does not like sourcing from one vendor……they need to find another card.

    The WhipTail purchase all but kills 3 max out of the 35 (last count) all flash / hybrid arrays. One by one VC money will dry up. Nimble only because they had a brilliant go to market strategy even if their technology is not the best. Tintri even though their go to market is flawed whith the founder still CEO, the technology is quite good. Then there’s Violin which counts only Texas Memory aka IBM Flash as a worthy competitor, and they are right until XtremeIO (I know it SSD vs. memory but the software may mitigate that) proves they can compete. Witnessed 160k VDI clients with XtremeIO and it screens.

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