I am an unabashed fan of social networking. For the data center team, being able to get direct, unfiltered feedback from the market has been a boon for making sure we are tracking in the right direction. I also thoroughly enjoy the online conversations on the various blogs and in Twitter. There are a great number of people out there with a lot of good thinking on the data center and I highly encourage you to do a little googling to get plugged into these conversations. There are folks out there with views diametrically opposed to mine (you know who you are) but they have well-reasoned, well-spoken opinions and you can’t help but respect them for that--and I honestly enjoy the back-and-forth.
And then I’ll come across something that will leave me scratching my head thinking “Really...that’s the best you could come up with?” I was reminded about this when I recently ran across a diatribe on our “lack of innovation”. So, as a company, I will readily admit that there are a number of things we need to work on (and are), but “lack of innovation”? Really?
Let’s deconstruct this a little bit. Just for the sake of argument, let’s start with a definition. My trusty Mac dictionary defines “innovate” as “make changes in something established, esp. by introducing new methods, ideas, or products,” so lets run with that. So, what have we done along these lines in the data center space in the last 20 months or so (not meaning to brag, just trying to make a point):
- Nexus 7000
- First unified fabric switch featuring lossless fabric with 15Tb/s capacity on the current roadmap, way faster before we are done
- Kicked of a round of industry speed-dating as folks play catch-up on the unified fabric front
- Allows hypervisor-like switch virtualization to help simplify physical topology
- Data center-class modular OS based built upon Linux kernel
- Only shipping operating system based that integrated proven LAN and SAN code
- Versions are happy running on x86 architecture
- Nexus 5000
- First switch to deliver lossless 10GbE and FCoE
- Allows customers to start getting a handle on server sprawl with unified fabric
- Nexus 1000V
- First 3rd party switch for VMware environments
- Introduces VN-Link technology
- Meaningfully improves the scalability of server virtualization
- Nexus 2000
- Unique Fabric Extender technology that delivers cost benefits of rack switching with operational simplicity of end-of-row switching
- Introduces Network Interface Virtualization technology
- Simplifies deployment of pod-type data center architectures
- Unified Computing System
- Unique platform that integrates compute, network and virtualization in a single integrated standards-based platform with a single point of management.
- Industry speed-dating gets a bit more anxious
- Nexus 4000
- First FCoE blade switch for blade server chassis
- Supports FIP Snooping for more sophisticated topologies
Each of these products is not just about being “faster” or “denser”, but rather each announcement advances our customers’ ability to build smarter, simpler data centers, which is the true innovation.
And that is the real point. If you look back in history, we have a track record of successfully moving into brand new adjacent markets--SNA, voice, and storage networking come to mind. A big part of that success is because we don’t come in as a me-too player, but rather we enter a market when we can deliver innovation that brings value to customers. A perfect case in point is our entry into the server market, including the blade server market . Our memory extension technology is an absolute game changer that helps customers lower costs or realize new functionality. Are we always perfect? Of course not, but we learn from our mistakes. And I know there are folks in the valley working to keep us on our toes, That's what keeps things interesting.
So that, my friends, is my take on whether we can innovate. What do you think? What companies do you think of when you think of innovation (doesn't have to be IT)?