Could it be?  I just read this over at GigaOm and I think Allan’s missing the boat.  Now, I’m sure he’s tapped into a lot more resources than I am, but it just doesn’t seem right.  I could see Cisco wanting to see how they can help in the data center to make VMWare a better platform than it already is.  The VMotion technology already works very well, but what’s to stop Cisco from putting some performance hooks in their secret sauce to make it that much better than Juniper.  Also, considering their push into SAN technologies it’s really not a stretch.

I have a different thought.

Cisco’s been shipping what are essentially Linux appliances on NetMods for quite a while now.  The NM-CUE, the IPS module and the WAAS modules are examples, but there are others.  I believe these are x86 based appliances.  These appliances are part of the less frequently used “Branch in a Box” term that Cisco targets for their 2800 and 3800 series routers.  The idea being a single router, which has to be there no matter what, can also bundle in an Ethernet switch with POE, Voice interfaces to service local calls, SRST for redundancy on the voice, a wireless AP on an HWIC, local Unity Express perhaps, local IPS for distributed security, onboard IOS firewall, WAAS module…and I’m probably missing something.

Here’s the current problem.  You can only put a couple of these in at a time!  There’s no way to put all of this in one box (nevermind the wisdom of doing such a thing).

Regarding Allen’s assertion that developers would have to develop for something other than x86 because Cisco doesn’t use that, sorry Allen, you’d be wrong about that.  The NM-CUE and similar modules use a P3 and even the AIM-CUE which is a tiny motherboard attached daughtercard uses a Celeron!

My prediction, look for some beefier NM type appliances.  Maybe even something with Dual Cores.  This will be a “VMWare ESX” appliance in the NM form factor.  It’ll probably even be a couple of them at different sizes to fit the double wide slots.  You’ll choose based on how many VM’s you want to run at a time.  Of course, the IPS, Unity Express, WAAS and other images will all be available, for a license fee.

The big question is, will they also open it to allow you to run your own VM’s on it?  Maybe but maybe not.  Cisco has a history of not allowing that kind of thing.  But here’s an idea, how about running your small(ish) Windows 2003/8 server in VM?  Maybe even something with the WAAS secret sauce built right in.  If it’s a new enough processor you might even be looking a x64.  How about installing Exchange 2007 in that VM as well!

Now we really are talking about Branch in a Box!