After months of rumors, Cisco officially entered the server business this morning with a modular system it calls the "Unified Computing System" (UCS). This blade server system goes one step beyond its predecessors by starting from a unified network foundation on ten gigabit per second Ethernet (10 GbE) that delivers a true wire-once architecture. We believe this is the next step in blade server technology as it collapses a lot of components in these systems — unified network, direct path I/O from the VM through to the chip, to the network, and unique system optimization for virtual workloads.

However, no one is clamoring for another server vendor, so despite the strong showing of partners at this launch, Cisco will have to win over enterprise server buyers who up to this point have had no relationship with the company. We think UCS will succeed mostly in green field deployments inside of companies who have a strong strategic partnership with Cisco. As they realize the gains promised, others will start to take them seriously.

As Cisco has affected the telephony market with its VoIP push, so too could they have the same affect on the server market over time, but it would be a mistake to discount HP and IBM who see this same vision and arguably are better positioned to take their strategic partner enterprise clients there.

By James Staten and Galen Schreck

Check out James' research and Galen's research.