I get that impression by reading today's blog entry by Douglas Gourlay, Cisco's VP of data center products. He says things like, "Cisco is NOT building a blade server," and he's the one who provided the capital letters and the boldface.
The going theory has been that Cisco will announce a server on Monday. There are two reasons for this. First, Cisco is ready to announce something about its "unified computing" plan for tying together servers, storage, and networking in the data center, probably using some kind of virtualization magic.
Second, Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior told The New York Times in January that Cisco was building something that sounded an awful lot like a server.
The problem could be semantics. It's possible that the box code named "California," assuming it exists, is so packed with virtualization goodness that Cisco doesn't consider it to be a server at all. (It's also possible that the box doesn't have removable blades, which technically could make it a server but not a blade server.) Yes, it's time to scrutinize Gourlay's blog 100 times over, like it's a vague answering-machine message from an ex.
Cisco wants to do this unification thing to bring about what it claims will be a better, more efficient, shinier data center. And Gourlay, at least, is unhappy with the state of servers:
So what have the server vendors done for their customers in the past 5-10 years? Where has all of this R&D spend gone? I’ve seen server margins compact, and server companies staff thousands to make up the margin with lucrative services. In fact some server vendors have started moving to integrate more tightly with the network- why? Because every time network capabilities have increased two things have happened: parallel networks have consolidated and servers have disaggregated. (Don’t believe me? Look at IP Telephony and FibreChannel and FCoE as examples).
So, let's speculate (also known as "making stuff up").
If Cisco is not trying to replace servers, it's at least likely to propose a scheme that connects other people's servers to Cisco's [INSERT BOX HERE] to provide better virtualization, unification, and harmonic convergence than ever before.
That would set up same kind of fight we've seen in telecom networks. Cisco would have an "end-to-end" plan that, in a sense, turns the data center into a single block product -- one built around Cisco keystones, of course. Other vendors will fire back with talk of how it's better to plan for a truly open environment, one that lets you use any equipment, especially the kind that's not Cisco's. Maybe I can just file that and take Monday off.
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading