Cisco working on rack-shaped hyperconverged UCS, says sales chief

Blade-centric Borg surprised by hunger for pizza boxes, also ponders multi-hypervisor NFV

Cisco's underwhelming performance in hyperconverged appliances is attributable to the company's heritage as a blade server vendor, the company's executive veep for worldwide sales and operations Chris Dedicoat told The Register at Cisco Live in Melbourne, Australia, today.

On the Borg's last earnings call, CEO Chuck Robbins said of hyperconverged devices that “We would like to see it moving more quickly,” adding that the company is considering “broad strategy in the data centre.”

Dedicoat modified those comments a bit today, saying “we are making very good progress” in the field, but that the rate of progress is “not good enough for us.”

The reason for the disappointments, Dedicoat reckons, is “the thing changed on us faster than we expected was the move from blade to rack.” Cisco's UCS range mostly offers blades, so the company realised it “needed to shift our development activity” and also needed to learn “how to leverage optical better than we have done.”

Dedicoat suggested those products are on the drawing board, but that it takes time get the nuances like NICs right, especially as regards optical connectors. But he also expressed confidence that the new leader of the company's data centre group, Roland Acra, is on top of his brief.

Another change Cisco's contemplating is the addition of multi-hypervisor network function virtualization to its Enterprise Network Compute System (ENCS) 5400 and associated software. The 5400 platform is a Xeon-powered server integrated with a switch and, in harness with Cisco's NFV Infrastructure Software is designed to run virtual machines for things like firewalls and WAN optimisation.

To do so, Cisco runs its own lightweight virtualization layer in the 5400. That layer is based on KVM and software must be packaged to run in that environment. Which to the mind of The Register's virtualization desk means organisations committed to another hypervisor but also interested in Cisco's NFV will find themselves either with a silo of sorts or duplicating lots of their VM management stack.

We therefore asked Cisco's veep for architectures Dave West if the company is considering opening its NFV products to multiple hypervisors.

And it's an idea he certainly did not rule out.

“We always have to start somewhere,” he told The Register. “For us it is getting a solution out there that is going to work and then we continue to grow from there, open up and become more available for others.”

That philosophy, he said, makes it hard to immediately support all scenarios. But he also said “we will continue to evolve” the NFV platform. And The Register will continue watching it. ®

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