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Cisco enters the Storage market by acquiring WHIPTAIL

September 10th, 2013 · 2 Comments · Cisco Unified Computing System


Cisco enters the Storage market by acquiring WHIPTAIL

This morning Cisco announced it’s intention to buy Whiptail, a company that produces a series of high performance, scale out, unified (Fiber Channel, iSCSI, Infiniband and NFS) flash based arrays. The intention is to integrate the product into their Unified Compute System (UCS)

In their press release however, Cisco is positioning this acquisition as a high performance flash memory system. The described purpose of this system is to accelerate key applications similar to Fusion I/O.

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Cisco’s statement from Blogs.cisco.com -

Cisco is evolving UCS to keep pace with the changes brought about by the Internet of Everything and the App Economy.  Today, Cisco is announcing its intent to acquire WHIPTAIL. Based in Whippany, New Jersey, WHIPTAIL builds the highest performing and most scalable solid-state memory systems available today. Scalable from one node to up to 30 nodes, WHIPTAIL systems can deliver over four million IOPS and 360 Terabytes of raw capacity – a truly staggering amount of solid-state performance capable of providing the workload optimization required in the App Economy.

By making this acquisition, Cisco is enhancing the Unified Computing System (UCS) by bringing solid-state memory acceleration into the compute tier as a managed subsystem.  WHIPTAIL is a perfect architectural fit for UCS because together the two combine a clustered architecture with fabric-based acceleration – all of which is automatable via the UCS Manager and UCS Director. The end result is to deliver optimized performance on top of UCS for emerging and business critical applications, such as virtualized, Big Data, database, High Performance Computing and transcoding workloads.

What this really is is Cisco entering the storage market

While the press release tries to skirt around the subject of storage, by positioning WHIPTAIL as an app accelerator. Those that are in the industry know that WHIPTAIL arrays are targeted at the all flash storage market accelerating mission critical high performance workloads.

By acquiring WHIPTAIL, and integrating into the Data Center Business Unity (DCBU) that makes UCS, Cisco can provide Systems, Storage and Networking from a single source. Combining WHIPTAIL with UCS Director (Cloupia), Storage Profiles (recent features within the last 18 months) and other new announcements Cisco can basically provide integrated Storage, Systems and Networking management all through UCS management console.

How this affects NetApp, EMC and VCE

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First, let me make an important statement. I have many friends at EMC, VCE and NetApp. They are all well run companies with good products. The opinions written about their reaction is based on my interpretation of dynamics in the field, and not a representation of the individuals in their respective companies.

EMC (and by proxy VMware -

Like it or not, Cisco and VMware now in a fight for the network edge because of VMware (and parent company EMC’s) purchase of Nicira. The relationships in the field have been tense at best, hostile at worst. I expect EMC to continue to push towards the Software Defined Data Center vision and try to remain in control of large enterprise storage sales through their dominance with VMAX. I expect them to pump up their messaging around Extreme I/O, All Flash VMAX, and All flash VNX as they compete for hearts and minds in the field.

NetApp -

This morning many people at NetApp will cry a single tear into their coffee as they realize that Cisco buying them is no longer an option. Years of relationship building, and success in the field around FlexPod with Cisco will get thrown out the door as the Cisco sales force is provided with a Unified Storage option that is on the Cisco price list.

Sadly, I think this may signal a tipping point for NetApp. They are an amazing company with amazing people and great products. However as the last true non integrated storage vendor, taking Cisco off the prospective suitors list is not a good sign for their future.

VCE -

Awkward. Awkward, Awkward. VMware, Cisco and EMC are parent companies. Effectively the recent product announcements would be the same if your Mom was cheating with your neighbor, who’s husband was cheating with your dad, while your sister just opened up a tattoo and piercing parlor.

The parent companies are fighting and in a divorce. The next couple months will be a test of how independent VCE is, and whether they can survive their parents getting divorced. They have great people, and good products. I hope they succeed, but it will be hard.

How this affects the customer

The cliche answer is each company is focused on customer success. The reality is that each of these companies have individuals that represent them in social media, as well as teams in the field. My gut feel is that we will see an expansion of the current DC Networking debate (Cisco vs Nicira) expand into storage.

I think this is likely to drive a lot of confusion into the customer conversation as engineering and field teams start to understand how Storage fits into to Cisco’s product set, and companies that end up as competition start generating competing messaging.

In short, FUD, Confusion, and other craziness is likely to dominate in the upcoming months.

Learn More -

Cisco blog announcing intent to aqcuire WHIPTAIL – http://blogs.cisco.com/news/cisco-announces-intent-to-acquire-whiptail/

WHIPTAIL Site – http://whiptail.com

WHIPTAIL Blog – http://whiptail.com/blog/

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Chad Sakac // Sep 16, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Disclosure, EMCer here.

    Colin, good post. Fun times to be sure – lots of change is kinda exciting :-)

    I don’t entirely subscribe to some of your conclusions (as you might expect), but do to others.

    Did you read my post on this?

    http://virtualgeek.typepad.com/virtual_geek/2013/09/interesting-times-cisco-and-whiptail-one-opinion.html

  • 2 colinmcnamara // Sep 16, 2013 at 10:32 am

    Chad, I did read your article. It is well written and on point.

    I do see Cisco, HP, Dell all having to offer storage products to stay viable. Combine this with the impact of Intel flooding the server storage market with high performance equipment and I see that Cisco has to make a storage play to stay relevant.

    Now, I don’t think this is the end of the world for anybody. It does however force the inevitable change from hardware to software delivery models from storage manufacturers.

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