Vendors of servers, storage and software all can play roles in managing resources in virtualized data centers. Cisco executives have said the network is the best place to tackle many of these tasks because it is the only element of the infrastructure that touches everything.
IBM and HP have not overlooked the importance of networks in controlling data centers. IBM has aligned with Cisco rival Juniper Networks in a broad strategy called Stratus, and HP is expected to increasingly tie its growing ProCurve networking business in with its computing offerings.
Cisco has pushed to bring more functions into the network infrastructure for several years. These have included security, application optimization, and adaptation of multimedia to fit different clients and purposes. As revenue growth from its core routing and switching businesses slows, the company is aggressively branching out into new areas, including consumer electronics and the Telepresence high-definition videoconferencing line.