Network equipment maker Cisco is planning to enter the server market with systems that focus on virtualization for the entire data center. Analysts expect Cisco will shake up the industry and put itself on a collision course with traditional partners like HP and IBM.
The other major makers of computer hardware, including HP, IBM, and Dell, have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with the company, which is based in San Jose, Calif.: Cisco sells networking gear, while they sell personal computers, servers, storage systems, and software.
Industry experts say that Cisco's push into the server market will disrupt that comfortable symbiosis and could cause an all-out war among the tech titans for one another's customers.
"This will be the most important and most talked-about product of the year," said Brent Bracelin, a hardware analyst for Pacific Crest Securities. "There will be massive competitive reactions from both IBM and HP, and we expect this will lead to a new wave of industry consolidation."
Cisco executives played down the potential for serious conflict. "We see this not as a new market, but a market transition," said Padmasree Warrior, the company's chief technology officer. "Any time there is a major transition occurring, there will be large companies that have to compete in some areas."