Cisco vs. Oracle: Friends or Foes at Avnet Partner Summit?
Call it the latest example of coopetition. On some fronts, Cisco Systems and Oracle cooperate. But on other fronts, Cisco and Oracle increasingly compete. That reality is taking center stage this week during the Avnet Technology Solutions Partner Summit near Denver, Colo. Here’s a recap through the eyes of The VAR Guy.
The Avnet partner conference started July 27 with heavy Oracle-centric content. Throughout the day, Oracle and Avnet executives described why Sun partners should begin to specialize and, not by coincidence, pursue the Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) Specialized offerings. Oracle even claimed Sun’s CMT servers can outperform Intel servers.
Switch to July 28, and the conference is now focused mostly on the Avnet-Cisco Systems relationship. On the one hand, Avnet and Cisco are telling partners how to compete with Hewlett-Packard and IBM. But listen closely and you’ll hear where Oracle and Cisco will also compete and cooperate.
Chris Swahn, Avnet’s VP and GM for Cisco Solutions offered these two observations:
- Cisco’s unified computing system (UCS) offers another platform to run Oracle software.
- And for customers who prefer Sun’s SPARC servers, partners can complete the solution with Cisco’s NEXUS solutions.
Clearly, Swahn was trying to tactfully balance Oracle and Cisco messaging. But read between the lines and it’s clear Cisco and Oracle will wind up competing in some market segments — especially as Cisco attempts to consolidate servers, storage and networking in the data center. Swahn notes that Avnet hopes to generate $1 billion in Cisco data center sales within three years.
Now, the ironic twist: Cisco’s David Lawler took the stage and said he was a Sun veteran who had also worked on x86 servers. In The VAR Guy’s mind, Lawler was attempting to show he understood the competitive server landscape, and Cisco intends to disrupt the traditional Sun server business.
Cisco Sees Inflection Point
Lawler is VP of UCS product management within the Cisco server access virtualization group. He says multiple data center inflection points have occurred. They include:
- The Mainframe in the 1964: The compute, comms, storage and OS all were designed to work together and kicked off the IT industry. Then there were minicomputer and client server waves.
- Disaggregated systems in 1995: Distributed, standards-based disaggregated systems arrived. Compute, network, storage, operating system were available from many vendors. The web and virtualization drove additional opportunities.
- Now: In 2010 and beyond, there’s no single word to describe the next data center inflection point, Lawler says. But clearly, he’s pointing partners to Cisco’s unified computing system, which converges servers, storage and networking in the data center. He also pointed to 10Gb Ethernet, x86 evolution and virtualization as the enablers that Cisco spotted in 2005. Now, he says, a unified fabric, common compute platform and mainstream virtualization are driving the new data center.
The bottom line: Lawler asserted that Cisco has always embraced standards (such as Ethernet) to help develop new partner solutions. He assured partners that Cisco UCS is standards-based.
Sun Legacy, Cisco Future?
During a few brief moments, Lawler mentioned his Sun legacy — a clear indication that he wants Sun partners in the room to trust Cisco’s vision. Lawler also mentioned that Intel x86 shipments are rising as customers migrate away from RISC, Itanium and Unix — an indirect shot at Solaris and SPARC, without having to mention them by name.
Sure, Lawler’s main competitive statements were directed at HP and IBM. But The VAR Guy wonders: Going forward, will Cisco and Oracle mostly cooperate or mostly compete?
Here’s a clue: Toward the end of Lawler’s session, he mentioned Cisco itself is running most of its Oracle applications on a Cisco UCS platform…
Hardly surprising and a clear sign of how Cisco and Oracle-Sun will compete on some fronts.