Cisco has revealed a little more about its plans to break into the data centre market although the company has still not confirmed rumours that it's developing a blade server.

John McCool, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's data center switching and services group, said there areas within the data centrebeyond networking where Cisco could iron out "seams" of technology among servers, switches and storage devices.

"I can't comment on an unannounced product," McCool said about reports that Cisco will unveil its own blade server system next year. "I would say though that you see what we've done with the [Nexus] 1000V - the interesting things now are happening at the seams of technology. Obviously, we represent the networking component. But you have a virtualisation layer that's now emerged in data centres and you have compute.

"We're very much interested in making the whole environment - we call it unified computing - a homogeneous environment by making those seams not look like gaps in IT," McCool said.

Cisco's Nexus 1000V is a software switch that runs on multivendor servers. It takes a virtual machine's network and security properties with it while the virtual machine is moved around the data center.

Sources expect Cisco next year to roll out an internally developed blade-server system based on Intel processors and a Linux operating system. The system also is expected to support Cisco's unified fabric, which supports multiple types of data-center traffic over a single Ethernet host bus adapter.

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"We really see that as the connection between the server and then the switch," McCool said of the unified fabric approach. "So, we've virtualised effectively what used to be different host bus adapters. An application can still think it's talking to separate host bus adapters because you're not rewriting your application. It comes out of a single physical link so you've saved a ton of power. And you can wire once all your data centre computers and . . . that server is capable of running any of those applications."

Observers expect the Cisco blade server system to encroach on the traditional data centre strongholds of longtime Cisco partners IBM and HP. It is expected to significantly strain the relationships Cisco has with those companies.

McCool was philosophical about that impact. "We see such a shift in the technology landscape with virtualisation that it's creating a new set of challenges that have to be innovated," he said. "I'm sure those companies are looking at their own vectors of innovation on how to address this. Change brings challenges, challenges hopefully brings innovation. We've decided to embrace the challenge and believe that we can innovate.