Cisco has set itself on a collision course with the world’s largest systems vendors following the much-anticipated launch of its Unified Computing System (UCS), a mainstream data centre computing platform that promises to seamlessly integrate processor, storage and network systems in a virtualised architecture.
UCS throws down the gauntlet to HP, IBM, Dell, Fujitsu and others by offering medium and large enterprises a single architecture that “links all data centre resources together”, overcoming the “assembly-required” nature of today’s distinct virtualisation environments.
The networking equipment market leader has watched as virtualisation has transformed the structure of server and storage environments in data centres. As that revolution extends to network virtualisation, the company feels it is well placed to play a controlling role across all three levels of virtual technology.
Starting in the second quarter of 2009, it plans to offer complete systems of up to 320 compute nodes housed in 40 chassis, with data flowing across 10 gigabit Ethernet.
Critical to its challenge will be its ability to draw on the expertise of key partners. Its compute capabilities, UCS B-Series blades, will be based on Intel Nehalem processors, the follow-on generation from Intel Xeon; VMware will supply the critical virtualisation software; BMC will enable “a single management environment for all data centre devices”; EMC and NetApp will be responsible for the storage system units; Emulex and Qlogic will input storage networking technology; Oracle will deliver middleware; and key systems software will come from Microsoft and Red Hat.
The company is already making bold claims for the savings that clients will reap from such an integrated fabric. UCS “reduces total cost of ownership: up to 20% reduction in capital expenditure and up to 30% reduction in operational expenditures”.
Moreover, the company, which has come in for sharp criticism for the excessive energy consumption of its data centre switches, maintains that UCS will be highly energy efficient.