Cisco’s UCS: A closer look

Cisco is claiming its new Unified Computing architecture will save IT departments 20% cheaper on their hardware costs and 30% on IT running costs, compared with traditional systems.Launched on Monday, March 16, the Unified Computing System unites computing, network, storage access, and visualization resources in a single energy efficient system, the company said. This puts it into direct competition with IBM, HP and other hardware vendors for the first time.

According to Jon Oltsik, senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group, this are the pluses and minuses of the new Cisco product:


Innovative packaging that requires less rack space, power, and cooling than a standard blade server.

Designed for tight integration with server virtualization and the network.

a. Cisco Virtual switch (i.e. VN-Link) replaces VMware switch. This links virtual and physical networking policy and management.

b. Cisco adds extra memory to its server platforms, which enables it to increase the ratio of virtual servers hosted on each physical server.

Cisco manages the entire UCS virtual data center with one management platform. Cisco management can be integrated with other management platforms from vendors like BMC.

The overall strength is in integrating and improving both storage and network I/O. In this regard, Cisco could have a significant performance advantage in large data center deployments.


Extremely proprietary architecture. Heck, Cisco is implementing its own version of Ethernet (What is more standard than Ethernet, for heaven’s sake?) to consolidate storage and network I/O. The “real” standards won’t be in place for another year or two.

This is a brand new arena for Cisco where its market share is 0 percent. With Dell, HP, and IBM well established in this market, expect enterprise CIOs to proceed with extreme caution.

The advantages of this architecture are minimal in a mixed environment. Today, all enterprises have other servers, and heterogeneous server support is not a core feature of this announcement.

Systems management has always been a Cisco weakness. HP and IBM are much better positioned here.

*Used with permission from CBS Interactive, Inc., Copyright 2009. All rights reserved

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Sharp turns like Cisco’s have a long history

CiscoIf Cisco announces its first blade servers on Monday, as expected, the news may well herald a major expansion of the dominant networking company’s business. But even though it’s the most hotly anticipated move in a long time for an IT vendor, this isn’t the first case of a company taking a big gamble on entering into a new business.

Potentially game-changing shifts have taken many forms, and none is directly comparable to Cisco’s plan or its historical context. But there are some lessons for Cisco in how those strategies have played out, according to industry analysts.

It may be hard to remember, but Intel didn’t make any chips for servers until the Pentium Pro was unveiled in 1995. The company had remained focused on PCs while giants such as IBM and Sun Microsystems built both the central computers that ran enterprise applications and the processors at the heart of those systems. PCs were used for some departmental functions such as printing, but they weren’t true servers. Leveraging its PC chip development resources and large-scale PC economics for server CPUs turned out to be a very good move for Intel and IT as a whole, spawning the industry-standard servers that dominate data centers today.

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