A year from now the difference will be (Cisco) UCS (Unified Compute System) is dead and we have had phenomenal market share growth in the networking space…And customers are thrilled and partners are making a lot of money.” – Randy Seidl, VP of the Americas, Enterprise Servers Storage and Networking,  HP (April 26, 2010)

 
This was a quote found in CRN’s article a year ago, today,  from Randy Seidl, HP’s senior vice president of the Americas, Enterprise Servers Storage and Networking, who was tasked in leading the charge against Cisco.  Needless to say, it’s a year later, and Cisco UCS is still around but with much question around how much market share they own since they’ve yet to release market data to IDC or Gartner. 

Why Hasn’t Cisco Failed?
I’m not a market analyst – just a guy with a passion for talking blade servers, so my opinion as to why Cisco didn’t fail, as predicted by HP, is as much of a guess as anyone would have.  I can only speak on what I observe:

  1. Cisco has PASSION- I firmly believe that in order to succeed, you must have desire.  Whether you are promoting blade servers or virtualization software, if you don’t believe in your product, no one will.  No matter who you talk to at Cisco, they will tell you that UCS is the best product on the market.  I haven’t seen that passion in any other vendor lately.  Perhaps other vendors could learn a thing or two from Cisco’s employees.
  2. Cisco’s UCS Management is Unique - if you spend any amount of time watching Cisco demonstrate their management of the UCS, you will see that it’s a unique way of handling blade server resources.  Rather than try to explain, I encourage you to take a look at M. Sean McGee’s blog post from a few weeks ago: http://www.mseanmcgee.com/2011/04/the-cisco-ucs-advantage-series/

Now that we see that Cisco UCS isn’t going to die, what do they need to succeed in winning the blade server market share?  Here’s an excerpt from a blog post I wrote in January:

———–

The following are my recommendations / suggestions for Cisco.  The intention is not to bash anyone at Cisco, but to provide an outsider’s perspective of what I think needs to happen if Cisco wants to increase their UCS blade server market share.

Focus on Product Branding When you ask people what “ProLiant” is, a majority of the people know it is an HP server brand.  On the contrary, ask people what “UCS” is and fewer people know.  Why?  Partially because HP has been in the server space for many years, but it’s also due to a lack of branding by Cisco.  Sure, everyone knows the name Cisco – even commoners (people outside of the data center) recognize the logo from TV shows like 24 and movies.  Cisco does a GREAT job of getting the company name out, but needs to focus on getting the UCS brand out there a little more.

Create Public Configuration and Reference Tools.  I’m a hands-on type of guy, and when I want to see what my server options are, I want to go to the manufacturers’ web sites and configure the systems myself.  IBM has a nice stand-alone product configuration tool, while HP and Dell have great web-based tools that can help you design a blade server system.  When it comes to reference tools, HP has QuickSpecs while IBM has a very informative Redbooks collection.  However when we look at Cisco, the details and list price of a UCS configuration is held within the arms of the Cisco sales teams or Certified Partners.  I don’t quite understand the reasoning of this, but if Cisco shared their tools and materials to the general public it could increase the interest in the product.

—————–

To read my entire blog post, go to
http://bladesmadesimple.com/2011/01/what-cisco-has-to-do-to-win-the-blade-server-market/

 

So what do you think?  Will Cisco UCS survive or was HP’s prediction just a little early?  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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  • Anonymous

    A big Shout out to KC Choi and the good old boys. Here’s what happens when you only manage up and stop managing down ;) Talented people leave and you then have to compete with the best.

  • AbsoluteVista

    Cisco does seem passionate about UCS, no doubt.

    The problem with the ‘passion’ I see from Cisco staffers is that it seems flackish, and contrived; almost as if it is PR shilling.

    Furthermore the performance claims are outlandish, unreal, and totally devalue subsequent discourse.

    Let’s not even talk about Cisco’s UCS market share claims, for they seem to have originated in The Theater of the Absurd!

    That said, I must disagree with you on the lack of passion from other vendors. The HP blade pros I know are extremely passionate and knowledgeable about their products, and extremely helpful. I should know, for they have aided me several times.

    Also, Dell is pretty gung-ho about their stuff. In fact, I am mulling a couple of review offers from them right now…

  • http://BladesMadeSimple.com/ Kevin Houston

    Thanks for the comments, John. I guess my comment regarding #cisco ‘s passion compared to others wasn’t expressed the right way. I guess my point is that when I’ve talked with anyone at Cisco, they all swear that UCS will take over one day. The other vendors love their product, but I don’t get the same enthusiasm that I do with Cisco. I’m not bashing HP or Dell by any means. Heck, I’m reviewing a Dell M610 and M710HD right now – I’m just saying that perhaps the emotional ties that the Cisco gang expresses could be a key reason they appear to be WINNING ;) Good to hear from you – thanks for reading!

  • http://twitter.com/JeffSaidSo Jeff Allen

    Disclaimer: I work for Cisco on UCS

    Kevin,

    Great article and, as always, pretty fair analysis. My key take away is indeed our passion. I’m surrounded by people that are 100% certain that we will win in the compute space. I don’t doubt them – and passion will win you some deals, but you’ve got to have better technology in the end. I believe we have that part covered as well so we have a winning combination here at Cisco.

    Your suggestions are also good ones. We need those tools and our marketing could be better (and is getting better).

  • AbsoluteVista

    I agree with you there. And you did express it correctly: all Cisco staffers
    do believe in the product. That is an unbelievable sell through by Cisco to
    get employees that engaged, and I applaud it.

    However, as we peel the covers, onion-like, we see that some of the basis
    for that passion may be misguided. Or downright nebulous.

    That said, all other vendors should try to get ALL STAFFERS as engaged and
    marching in lockstep as Cisco has. That sort of engagement is infectious.
    Can you imagine if all Cisco partners and/or ecosystem get as passionate? We
    could be looking at another VMware here!

  • http://twitter.com/pjz11 Pat Zurica

    Cisco has a lot at stake with their UCS product. Just a few short years ago Cisco was on the fence when it came to blades.

    When you posed the question to Cisco about their products running on blades, you got a look that said “why would we ever move away from the big heavy servers?”. I feel their view was that blades were a passing fancy and no self respecting IT administrator would dare put blades in their environment.

    Now, Cisco has raided the IBM’s, Dell’s and HP’s of the world to build their UCS staff. Hence the ability to be in on the ground floor of a new and exciting product, leads to a high degree of passion and pride to make the product successful. Cisco now has the software and, oh by the way, here is the recommended hardware platform for which our software is certified.

    Will this lead to success? Maybe, maybe not. But one thing is certain, you cannot speak to a Cisco rep without hearing about the UCS platform. And, according to Cisco, there are not any other viable blade options on the market.

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  • http://BladesMadeSimple.com/ Kevin Houston

    Pat -you bring up a great point about #Cisco ‘s passion toward UCS, and that is that it is a “new” thing for them. It’s exciting and alot of great talent are jumping on the bandwagon to help drive Cisco to the top. It also brings up the fact that John Chambers has A LOT at risk with UCS. If it were to fail, it could hurt Cisco financially as his leadership and their investment into UCS would be questioned. At this point, only market share #’s will tell. Thanks for your comment, and for reading.

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  • http://twitter.com/TechPaulogist Paul Christoffersen

    Don’t discount the power of the discount. #Cisco is currently using a lot of marketing dollars to undercut the competition on large bids. And it seems to be working. This will allow them to build a solid install base of customers and create momentum for the blades. Time will tell if they have staying power when they are forced to turn a profit. I am sure they will figure it out. They have a solid reputation and build solid gear.

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  • http://BladesMadeSimple.com/ Kevin Houston

    Excellent point regarding #Cisco ‘s ability to be profitable. Gaining market share through excitement and passion is not going to be beneficial if the shareholders aren’t making money. Thanks for your comment, and thanks for reading!

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  • http://twitter.com/BradTerEick Brad TerEick

    Disclosure: I work for Cisco on UCS

    Kevin –

    Great post! In general, I agree with your points and suggestions. This “passion” that you speak of manifests itself in a rock solid UCS product that leverages innovative technology. Just ask anyone who has deployed it. Now, as we surge ahead into our third year, even the biggest naysayers are clamoring to understand more about UCS.

    We are indeed passionate about UCS and we relish any opportunity to discuss the architectural differences with anyone who will listen.

    Brad TerEick

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  • http://profiles.google.com/sendemail2joe Joe Lemaire

    Kevin – Great post as usual. It always surprises me that Cisco’s UCS option isn’t more popular. The more and more I find out about it, the better I like the design. I really do believe that the unique concepts behind there design is what makes the solution so great.

    As my company is looking at the Cisco solution, the question that always comes up is ‘What about their market share?’ Management is still concerned that Cisco’s footprint in the blade market share isn’t as strong as a lot of other vendors, and that makes them nervous.

    Personally, I believe they have a great product and just have to market it a little better. I didn’t even know that Cisco offered a solution until my reseller informed me about it. Also, there will be some companies that just won’t be able to take it on, whether it be they are just not ready for a hardware refresh, or their environment is just too big to do a ‘rip and replace’ of the infrastructure they’ve spent ‘x’ years creating.

    If it can make it, I’m sure that over the course of 5 more years, we’ll be seeing Cisco’s market share (officially) increase, proving that it’s, at the very least, a competitor in this market.

  • http://twitter.com/CantonaKick NookinDeNiro

    I think the HP guy has a point. Cisco launched UCS in March 2009 and over two years later they appear to be dead in the water. No traction in the server market. Lots of statements and references from small companies, Gartner has them outside the top 10 in their Q1 results for 2011. I am sure the Flip team were equally as passionate about their product before it was jettisoned as a failed experiment.

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