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How Blade Plans to Best Cisco on the Street

Blade's ox beats Cisco's 1,000 chickens, CEO Vikram Mehta says, claiming Blade offers lower latency, lower power draw and lower prices.

On the eve of announcing a flood of new financing (from NEC, Juniper Networks and a third, silent partner), Vikram Mehta, president CEO of network switch provider Blade Network Technologies, shared with us how he's winning business on Wall Street from the 800 pound gorilla of networking, Cisco.

Blade's first competitive differentiator is support for low latency, Mehta says. Mehta says Blade's network switches achieve latencies that are one-fifteenth Cisco's. "To firms on Wall Street, time is money, and if they can cut latency in their network, they can get information a lot faster and trade on that information," he says. The silicon that Blade uses in its switches is more efficient than Cisco's, Mehta says. It's a high-performance ASIC (special-purpose computer chip) from Broadcom or Fulcrum Microsystems, rather than the multiple proprietary ASICs Cisco uses. "It's like having one big ox pull a plow as opposed to 1,000 chickens," he says. Another factor that makes Blade's network latency lower than Cisco's, Mehta says, is its switch operating system. Where competitors like Cisco and Foundry build general-purpose, one-size-fits-all ethernet switches, Blade focuses on the specific requirements of the data center, he says.

The next biggest networking concern Wall Street clients have after latency, Mehta says, is around power consumption and data center carbon footprints. He claims Blade's equipment consumes 65% less power than Cisco's, through design efficiencies. In October 2008, the Tolly Group conducted a bake-off between the Blade RackSwitch G8000 and Cisco's Catalyst 4948-1GE switch and found that the Blade switch consumed 30% less energy.

The third thing on Wall Street firms' minds related to data centers, according to Mehta, is cost of ownership. He says Blade's prices are lower and that acquisition and maintenance costs are one-fifth to one-tenth those of Cisco's.

Yet Blade's equipment is compatible with Cisco's, Mehta says, so that network administrators need not be retrained to run Blade equipment. "It will feel very familiar as they replace Cisco technologies with Blade," he says.

Blade's latest new product, VMready, helps firms migrate to virtualization by preserving the network attributes of servers as they're moved from one virtual machine to another.

To help firms migrate from 1gigE to 10gigE, Blade along with IBM and VMware last week announced a virtual fabric that enables customers to carve up a 10gig pipe to deliver different levels of bandwidth to virtual servers based on the needs of the applications they're running. "Processing power is no longer the constraint, there are eight lanes on the freeway," Mehta says of the latest generation of multicore servers. "The cars are very fast, the problem is the on-ramps and off-ramps. Moving to 10 gigabit really helps, but the ability to carve up that 10 gig pipe into multiple one-gig pipes to match applications is useful."

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