Blog post

Will Cisco Unify Computing?

By Tom Bittman | January 21, 2009 | 2 Comments

VirtualizationFuture of InfrastructureCloud

unif compCisco’s public blog recently announced an architectural approach they call “Unified Computing”. There’s been a lot of speculation about Cisco moving into the blade server business and so forth. I think Cisco just made clear that in their view the network may be at the center of IT, but “unifying” it with computing and storage is critical. Cisco is going to enter new markets. Maybe, better said, the lines between the technologies and the markets are getting fuzzier.

Gartner first talked about this in 2001 as Real-Time Infrastructure. IBM focused on “On Demand” which has been morphing over time but is still essentially a core part of their strategy. HP had Adaptive Enterprise (and Infrastructure) which shifted toward Adaptive Infrastructure and is still core to them today. Microsoft had Dynamic Systems Initiative, which became Dynamic IT – their vision behind the architecture for internal IT and for their cloud offering, the Azure Services Platform. VMware has Virtual Data Center Operating System and vCloud. And on and on.

I hear Harry Nilsson singing: “Everybody’s talking at me, I don’t hear a word they’re saying…”

Here are the words: unification, virtualization, cloud, adaptive, real-time, simplification.

We’ll see what Cisco delivers, but what is apparent is that the comfortable sandboxes in which different IT vendors sat are shattering. Those words demand that computing become a much more flexible, unified fabric. Unified to deliver on service levels. Services-oriented. Selling components is not the name of the game – making it all work together is.

What is also apparent is there are many vendor attempts to achieve this, and they all bring their current strengths and products to bear to unify a portion of the fabric. I believe Cisco’s announcement may be “one large step for a vendor, one small step for vendor-kind”. It is safe to say this will be big for Cisco – and big for unifying networking and computing – but it may not be a huge state of the art shift for the industry. It is good to see Cisco aggressively joining the club of vendors pushing the state of the art in infrastructure forward, however.

Finally, what is apparent is that we have to get over the religious argument about whether cloud computing can only be used to describe “what Amazon delivers” or mega-monstrous-external-service-providers, or unknown and unknowable computing capability in the ether. There is huge industry energy pushing in the direction that will make internal computing more real-time, on demand, adaptive, dynamic, unified. Cisco is undoubtedly a part of that push. What was custom will become packaged, and we will see a growth both in the numbers of cloud computing providers and in the number of organizations that feel they are building “private clouds” to be used only by their internal customers.

Where “the sun keeps shining through the pouring rain.”

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

Leave a Comment


  • This is a very interesting step to make from CISCO.

    I can only stress that unification is accelerated with the fabric convergence towards 10G. However having common management tools across heterogeneous domains and platforms remain key.

    While the fabric may unify, the people process operations and culture of LAN SAN and dare I say it the Server ‘CAN’ have been separated for nearly 2 decades.

    Unified real time computing fabrics are becoming a technology given, but people and process are resistant to this change.

    regds phild

  • Mukund says:

    Very interesting to see how this new model influences adoption in the data center space, especially the evolution of “Cloud fabric” and the types of workloads/customer segments they’re going after. Adoption challenges will be more in the realm of organizational issues (network team v/s sysadmins etc).