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UCS provides low operational costs

Posted: 18 Mar 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:server business  data centre design  data centre market  networking equipment 

Cisco Systems Inc. has dived into the server business using advances in silicon, networking and virtualisation to seek an edge over veterans such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard. Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS) underscores key trends in data centre design, but the network giant faces stiff competition in a complex and maturing market.

The news marks the second time this year that CEO John Chambers launched Cisco into a large market where it is a relative newcomer. At the Consumer Electronics Show, Cisco announced a media server and audio players for the digital home, leveraging its Linksys acquisition to drive the Cisco logo into a broader role in consumer electronics.

Now Chambers wants to see that logo get more space in data centres that are increasingly the host for tomorrow's applications in an emerging cloud computing era. By adding servers to its offerings in networking, the company aims for a broader play as a systems integrator at the level of IBM and HP.

"We address less than high single digits of the data centre market today," Chambers said. "With this offering, we can talk about 25 per cent or more of the data centre market."

Big slice of data centre market
The company estimated that its UCS can address a Rs.99,438.38 crore ($20 billion) slice of the overall Rs.4.23 lakh crore ($85 billion) data centre market. Cisco claims that UCS provides lower capital and operational costs, and is easier to manage than competing systems.

To date, IBM, HP, Sun Microsystems and others have focused on delivering server blades, large chassis that can house a number of servers along with networking and storage capabilities. Sun has even rolled out a shipping container with multiple racks of such systems and related gear as a large building block for increasingly massive data centres.

Cisco's UCS design follows the trend by including both network switches and as many as 320 server blades all managed as a single system. Under the hood, the company is using a handful of new and existing ASICs to differentiate its offering.

The UCS design collapses separate Fibre Channel storage and Ethernet networks into one 10Gbps Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) link using existing ASICs from Cisco's Nexus switch. The company claims that it helps reduce the amount of extra cards and cables the systems require.

In addition, Cisco has taken software technology called VN-Link it co-developed with virtualisation specialist VMWare and embedded it in an ASIC. The resulting module lets virtual machines move automatically from one server to the next, retaining the details of how they are configured.

The two companies have submitted the VN-Link approach to the IEEE 802 group on Ethernet for consideration as a standard.

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