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Cisco-Whiptail deal stresses storage partnerships

  • Cisco's (CSCO) $415M purchase of flash storage system vendor Whiptail marks the networking giant's official entry into the storage hardware market.
  • Though Cisco has become a major player in the server market through its UCS line, and has had a large presence in storage networking for some time, it has been content to leave storage sales to partners such as EMC, IBM, and NetApp (NTAP), along with server/Ethernet switch rivals such as H-P and Dell.
  • In a blog post explaining the deal, exec Paul Perez states Cisco concluded "UCS needed to be best-in-class at accelerating hot data layers" (i.e. mission-critical data), and that a flash storage offering was needed to achieve this goal.
  • Perez declares Whiptail to offer "the highest scalability in performance and capacity of any scale-out flash vendor on the market today," (rivals such as Violin Memory might beg to differ), and imagines solutions leveraging Whiptail, UCS, and Nexus switches enabling customers to load "vast amounts of data in seconds and minutes, not hours or days," among other things.
  • Whiptail relies on a proprietary OS built from the ground up to handle flash storage, something it argues yields superior performance.
  • The startup's products compete directly against systems from EMC's XtremIO unit, and indirectly against other flash-based EMC products. They also compete against IBM's Texas Memory unit and NetApp's flash offerings.
  • The Cisco-EMC partnership has already been pressured by the software-defined networking efforts of VMware's Nicira unit, which stand to make it easier for companies to replace Cisco gear with rival/commodity hardware (if adopted). There have been reports EMC has considered further encroaching on Cisco's turf by acquiring a networking hardware firm.
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