Posted by: Greg Ness | February 21, 2010

Cisco and HP Divorce: A New Era of Computing Has Begun

The much anticipated divorce between Cisco and HP that was announced in recent weeks is a harbinger for the network equipment industry.  Note Alexander Wolfe’s comments from his Wolfe’s Den blog:

Cisco has made what can only be characterized as an aggressive move emphasizing its strategic surge from a networking-centric vendor into a unified computing powerhouse.

Earlier in February Wolfe interviewed HP about their entrance into the infrastructure 2.0 category:

This may be the most astute move yet that HP has taken to blunt the high profile Cisco has achieved with its Unified Computing System, a competing Infrastructure 2.0 play, which similarly combines servers and networking.

Cisco and HP have made it clear to their investors, customers and employees that IT is being swept up into a new era of converged computing, driven by a host of new pressures, including virtualization and consumerization and increasing populations of IP addresses and network-enabled appliances.

These pressures are pushing IT vendors to support solutions with new levels of IT orchestration so that networks can grow in size and complexity without increasing risk and cost.  That kind of orchestration requires network automation which requires DDI automation, based on a newly anointed category of DNS, DHCP and IPAM appliances automating the manual processes that have been used for decades to keep networks working properly.

Note: Automation within IT is both ironic and inevitable.  According to Lew Tucker, IT costs will increasingly track to the cost of electricity.  You can read about Lew’s Law and network automation at the infrastructure 2.0 blog.  You can also read more about the links between network and IT automation at The Network beneath the Clouds.

Because today’s complex patchwork of applications, endpoints and networks are connected by today’s equivalent of yesteryear’s telephone operators (layers of manual connections and processes between ever changing populations) vendors are being encouraged to combine multiple solution categories into container categories, encompassing storage, network, applications and systems.

Cisco’s recent Acadia announcement, which brings Cisco, EMC and VMware into a private cloud alliance, is one of what promises to be a wave of unified efforts to drive the necessary convergence between otherwise disparate solution groups and the manual processes that have been traditionally required for IT infrastructure to function across ever greater distances and an ever increasing breadth of devices.

Underneath the manic headline grabbing cloud rush lies an all too important network, still suspended between seventies-era practices and today’s cloudy dreams and proclamations.  Those networks are still run like the early days of telephony, with growing ranks of network pros manually configuring every material change.

The question is then posed to Cisco and HP and others: who will be the first to automate the outdated, manually configured network? Will it be the network vendors -who have monetized the complexity and yet possess the expertise- or the system vendors who create a new network from scratch (or acquisition) on top of commoditized hardware?

The infrastructure 2.0 battle line, however, will likely form between network and system-centric visions and be fought between ever tighter alliances of once disparate solution groups playing to their core strengths. Automation will be a new kind of team effort supported by the coming network revolution.

The victor will likely be the first to automate the network (physical and virtual) and ultimately automate IT.  That automation will drive the next major wave of IT investment and innovation, and drive new categories of converged management solutions that enable the proper functioning of ever larger networks and ever larger populations of systems and endpoints, optimized in real time with minimal manual intervention.

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