Will Cisco Succeed Where Cassatt Failed?

If you read most mainstream blogs or publications, then you would think we were in the midst of the most significant shift in computing since its invention.  Virtualization and Cloud Computing have become the buzz words of analysts, writers, and old/new/start-up companies looking to catch the wave.   While the technology is interesting, for as many issues that are solved, more are created.  “New” architectures are really a re-hash of old technology and management/security are still an after-thought.  To put it another way, the adoption, integration, and application of this technology will not come at the cost of revenue; hardware or software.

Those that attempt to challenge the status quo should look no further than the now defunct Cassatt (acquired by CA).  Cassatt attempted to break down the silos between hardware and software thereby redefining the datacenter.  Cassatt viewed the datacenter as hundreds of servers with thousands of applications all with their own criticality and SLAs.  They challenged the “sticky note” mentality of purchasing new hardware for every application and labeling its name/IP Address and ownership.  Cassatt may have been the first vendor to realize that virtualization was not the answer to everything, that the walls between networking, servers, and applications needed to be broken, and that virtual sprawl is a real problem.   In the end, Cassatt did not have the market power or presence to change the industry; Cisco is a different story.

On the surface, Cisco entering the datacenter server and virtualization markets is uninspiring.  I wrote that, “Perhaps the innovator’s dilemma has finally caught up with Cisco because I expected more from them then simply launching a blade system with the Cisco badge on the bezel.”  Over the past few weeks, I have been wondering if Cisco’s current strategy is really a Trojan horse designed to attack the status quo.  After all HP, IBM, Dell, Intel, EMC, and Microsoft have much to lose.  What if Cisco redefined the datacenter back to its components; CPU, memory, storage, networking, etc.  They could create new devices that resemble the CRS-1 Multi Chassis System ala the trusty old mainframe that offers superior value and computing power for the price.  Also, they’ll need to redefine security and management, but that is only a BMC acquisition away.

Cisco’s challenge is marketing makes everyone look the same.  HP, IBM, SUN, Cisco, and more have all rolled out new datacenter strategies that feel eerily similar.  All this marketing FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) makes a paradigm shift more difficult.  Cisco’s grown up from an obscure networking company to a DOW Jones Component Powerhouse.  Can Cisco redefine the datacenter and bring about the titanic change within computing the industry craves?  And, will Cisco succeed where Cassatt failed?