Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cisco and Storage.

No I am not referring to storage infrastructure but storage arrays. Doing a bit of research work on the surveillance storage market I stumbled across a storage product which in itself is nothing spectacular but the supplier being Cisco did activate my curiosity filter.

The product “Cisco Video Surveillance Storage System” is a basic storage solution either internal DAS storage with a maximum of 24TB or in one of two fibre channel (FC) SAN configurations with a maximum array capacity of 42TB or 420TB per standard 42U rack. All capacity numbers quoted are raw. Raid 5 is available as is optional clustering for fail over protection. This relatively dense solution is integrated with the Cisco Video Media Server, targeted at surveillance video and audio, capture and archive.

As mentioned there is nothing remarkable about the product. However, that was the sentiment from the peanut gallery when Cisco purchased Andiamo back in 2001 and entered the storage networking space. I was with Compaq at the time with the responsibility of launching the Compaq/Cisco product line and remember well the protestation from Cisco that they had no intention of entering the storage array business. However and despite Ms Fiorina’s agreement with Mr. Chambers to play nice it was apparent that this was the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent. Look what has happened, McData, once the technology and market leader in Director Class switches is no longer and Brocade the aggressive number two at the time now under siege and in March Cisco announced the availability of their Unified Computing System. This project, three years in the making, positioned them directly against the server giants HP and IBM, not to forget Dell.

So what has all that to do with the video surveillance storage? Probably nothing, but it does suggest that Cisco understands that to be a complete solution provider they need to be a player in storage. Example; they have identified the surveillance market as a data rich niche, have developed a complete solution that includes storage and professional services that leverage their impressive network expertise. Template for the data center?

If my assertion is correct and Cisco covets the “complete provider to the data center” market positioning of HP and IBM they have to address the major gap in their product portfolio, namely enterprise class storage.

So what is the remedy? Is it acquisition or internal development and organic growth? For what it is worth I would suggest M&A activity is on the horizon. While I would not discount the tier two vendors such as 3PAR, Compellent, Xiotech and FalconStor, I suggest that EMC and NetApp are the most attractive targets and the ones most likely to quickly enable Cisco’s ambitions.

Time will tell.