The need for speed, in what I have called “The Age of Acceleration,” is transforming every aspect of communications and computing. Whether it be the data center internal network, the networks that interconnect them with all of us, server speeds or accessing and process stored information, vendors to data centers are constantly on the lookout for capabilities that speed literally “E”verything up.
In fact, with data loads increasing exponentially because of the immutable trends of virtualization, mobilization, cloud computing, big data and the explosion in rich media applications, there is now a premium, some might even call it table stakes to be a player, for major players to fill out their portfolios to make sure they have all the acceleration touch points that enable higher performance covered. It is for this very reason that while not a large deal, Cisco’s (News - Alert) announcement of its intention to acquire Whippany, N.J.-based WHIPTAIL is of more than just passing interest.
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Whipping data centers into shape
So who is WHIPTAIL and what does it do? The company, founded in 2009, is a recognized player in the high performance, scalable solid state memory systems market. This may be an obscure part of the industry to many readers, but it is important plumbing as the rush is on by systems suppliers to make sure they have all the puzzle pieces necessary to top the short list as data center transformation RFPs are evaluated.
Why is this important to Cisco? To put it simply, as part of its over-arching Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) the ability to enhance applications performance by integrating scalable solid state memory into the UCS's fabric computing architecture is believed to provide real differentiated value going forward. This is why an acquisition and not a strategic partnership was the path taken by Cisco.
As Cisco explains it, as new applications such as virtual desktops and data analytics increase the stress on traditional storage arrays, performance is compromised. The company notes, “Bridging the gap between increased application performance demand from servers and what traditional storage systems can deliver, requires that solid state memory systems be brought closer to the application.” WHIPTAIL will enable Cisco to provide the bridge as UCS architecture evolves by integrating data acceleration capability into the compute layer.
This will be accomplished by integrating WHIPTAIL's memory systems with UCS at a hardware and manageability level. Cisco believes this will simplify customers' data center environments by delivering the required performance in a fraction of the data center floor space with unified management for provisioning and administration.
"We are focused on providing a converged infrastructure including compute, network and high performance solid state that will help address our customers' requirements for next-generation computing environments," said Paul Perez, vice president and general manager, Cisco Computing Systems Product Group. "As we continue to innovate our unified platform, WHIPTAIL will help realize our vision of scalable persistent memory which is integrated into the server, available as a fabric resource and managed as a globally shared pool."
Cisco will pay approximately $415 million in cash and retention-based incentives in exchange for all shares of WHIPTAIL, and the deal is expected to be completed in Q1 2014. WHIPTAIL employees will be integrated into the Computing Systems Product Group led by Perez.
As suggested above, there is a race by major vendors to make sure they have all the requisite bases covered when it comes to providing data center transformation solutions. It has become increasingly clear as data center transformations move from evaluation to deployment and vendors lay out their architectures, frameworks and road maps (take you pick of the term that is applicable) that enterprises have seen enough of having too many vendors to manage. This is not to say they are seeking proprietary solutions that lock them in. In fact, as CIOs have told me for several months, “been there and done that.”
However, because of the criticality of data center transformation to top management as it look for ways to improve simultaneously operational efficiencies and the customer experience getting optimal performance is not longer just an IT concern. That said, having major influence over winnowing down the number of vendors to a few select ones that can provide the right solutions and great support, e.g., can be trusted and over the long-term, has become a market reality.
Cisco, like everyone else jockeying to make the short lists, is constantly on the lookout to assure its seat at the table is assured. This means minding the portfolio gaps. WHIPTAIL, as noted above, may be obscure, but it sits in a position of importance when it comes to enhancing performance and, thus, was a bridge that Cisco wisely decided it needed to own.