HP fails to mince words about Cisco Unified Computing

If I had a dollar for every time a vendor told me they “don’t commenton competitors,” I would have retired at 35. There seems to be anunwritten rule among tech vendors that you don’t say much (if anythingat all) about competing products.

But Hewlett PackardDevelopment Company LP madean exception this week when it lambasted Cisco Systems Inc.’sUnifiedComputing System.

“HP feels it was very appropriatethat Cisco launch their server in a museum,” a spokesperson wrote in ane-mail to journalists. “The notion of Unified Compute, Network andStorage as a system was launched with the first blades more than fiveyears ago. What Cisco paints to as ‘innovative’ is actually reactionaryand laggard.”


When it announced Unified ComputingSystem this week, Cisco had the backing of Microsoft, Intel, VMware,BMC and Accenture. Cisco is positioning UCS more as an “architecture”than as a set of products. Though the UCS B Series blade gets briefmention in the press release, Cisco CEO John Chambers and VP MarioMazzola went to great efforts to avoid saying Cisco was launching ablade server. During the press conference, Chambers wouldn’t even givea yes or no response to a simple question from The Economist: Is thisannouncement the California project?

But the answer was clearto vendors who were not endorsing UCS. Juniper Networks Inc., like HP,is not a Cisco UCS partner. Juniper had a similar reaction but withoutthe biting sarcasm, saying it has already “described” its “vision” withthe Stratus Project.

Technology journalists like to getopinions from competitors on product announcements, but 90 per cent ofthe time we don’t get a response, or one that I could recite in mysleep: “While we don’t comment on competitors, our solution is robust,scalable and open architecture that will help reduce total cost ofownership, yada yada yada.”

So the candour from HP and others isunusual. It also demonstrates a change for Cisco. In the past, wheneverwe would ask Cisco about a product that hadn’t been released, thestandard response was, “we don’t pre-announce products.” But the BSeries blade server will not ship until the second quarter, so Cisco isnow announcing products before they’re launched.

It’s prettyclear HP and everyone else who commented (other than VMware and the UCSpartners) see UCS as a major threat. This is somewhat usefulinformation to corporate IT departments, but from a network manager’sperspective, the only information available so far is on the overallvision. Once Cisco releases enough information on pricing andspecifications to allow corporate IT departments to compare itsproducts to those of HP and others, based on features, interoperabilitystandards and pricing, you might be able to decide whether UCS is foryou.

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