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Data Storage

Analyst: Cisco Isn't Competing with EMC on Whiptail Buy

Analyst: Cisco Isn
September 10, 2013 12:32PM

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With its acquisition of Whiptail to help simplify customers' data center environments, Cisco was very careful not to use the word "storage" because it doesn't want to alienate its partners, Network Appliance and EMC. But, the company is clearly in the storage market now, said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research.

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With the battle for solid-state memory systems heating up, Cisco is making yet another move in the arena. The company is snapping up privately-held Whiptail. Cisco is shelling out about $415 million for the high-performance, scalable solid-state memory systems company.

What makes Whiptail's tech attractive to the networking giant? Cisco's latest acquisition promises to help organizations simplify data center and virtualized environments and process more data in less time. By integrating scalable solid-state memory into the Unified Computing System's (UCS) fabric computing architecture, the company is betting Whiptail will strengthen its UCS strategy and beef up application performance.

"We are focused on providing a converged infrastructure including compute, network and high-performance solid state that will help address our customers' requirements for next-generation computing environments," said Paul Perez, vice president and general manager of Cisco's Computing Systems Product Group. "As we continue to innovate our unified platform, Whiptail will help realize our vision of scalable persistent memory, which is integrated into the server, available as a fabric resource and managed as a globally shared pool."

Betting on Converged Infrastructure

Here's the pitch: New breeds of applications such as virtual desktops and data analytics are making increased performance demands on traditional storage array systems. Bridging the gap between increased application performance demand from servers and what traditional storage systems can deliver, means that solid-state memory systems have to be brought closer to the application.

With the acquisition of Whiptail, Cisco said it is evolving the UCS architecture by integrating data acceleration capability into the compute layer. The company said integrating Whiptail's memory systems with UCS at a hardware and manageability level will simplify customers' data center environments by delivering the required performance in a fraction of the data center floor space with unified management for provisioning and administration.

Cisco also noted that UCS's architectural advantages, such as built-in automation and high-performance fabrics, complement Whiptail's high-performance data services. The company expects UCS and Whiptail, together with Cisco Nexus data center switches, will accelerate its innovation and momentum in the converged infrastructure.

Competing With Partners?

We asked Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research, for his take on the deal. He told us Cisco was very careful not to use the word "storage" because it doesn't want to alienate its partners, Network Appliance and EMC. But, he said, the company is clearly in the storage market now.

"Cisco hasn't thrown the gauntlet down yet but the gauntlet is in their hands. It certainly does creation friction where there wasn't any before," Kerravala said. "But when you look across the data center space today, the successful companies are going to be the ones that figure out how to best manage this new world of co-opetition, where almost any data center vendor has some form of competitive pressure with their partners."

As he sees it, Cisco isn't trying to compete directly with Network Appliance and EMC on the storage front. Rather, the company is adding storage to its UCS product to accommodate applications that require fast rewrite access for data-intensive apps like analytics and big data, and video transcoding.

Beyond the technology, Cisco is also taking in Whiptail employees. The acquisition is expected to be completed in the first quarter of fiscal year 2014.

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