Cisco Upgrades UCS Blades With Xeon 7500

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Cisco is building Intel’s Xeon 7500 chips into its servers in a major revamp of UCS, the converged data centre strategy it launched a year ago.

Cisco is upgrading its UCS data centre strategy with new rack and blade servers, new network switches and new virtualisation capabilities designed to increase its competition with server makers.

The Unified Computing System, announced last spring, jolted the infrastructure market, as network giant Cisco moved into the territory of server makers like IBM, Dell and HP, with a converged data centre strategy based on both network and server kit. Our review of UCS version 1 found it capable, though users pay a price for simplification.

New Xeon servers, and new switches

Read our review of Cisco UCS
Read our review of Cisco UCS

One year on the second generation of UCS includes new servers, based on Intel’s lastest Xeon 7500 server chips, as well as improved I/O technologies for greater scalability, new networking switches and upgraded storage.

Cisco officials will announce the new products today, pushing their vision of a data centre where compute, storage, networking and management software are contained in a single product, with high-performance processors and virtualisation technology, The move ramps up Cisco’s competition in the data center with the likes of IBM, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, a competition that over the past year has courted controversy, and strained previously close relationships with the other vendors. such as HP.

Cisco, for a long time a presence in the data centre through its networking offerings, is now rapidly growing what it offers IT administrators, and is doing so both through internal innovation and high-profile partnerships with such companies as virtualisation vendor VMware, storage giant EMC and Intel. For example, those four vendors announced in November 2009 that they are starting a new venture called the VCE—Virtual Computing Environment—to create cloud computing systems called VBlocks that offer integrated hardware and software.

The efforts of Cisco and its partners are beginning to change the way other OEMs look at their offerings, according to IDC analyst Matt Eastwood.

Cisco forces the x86 pace?

“The x86 server market is large and server road maps take a long time to change, but I would suggest that Cisco is forcing major server OEMs to rethink how they are positioning in the market, particularly in the enterprise,” Eastwood said in an e-mail to eWEEK. “This is driving a conversation regarding convergence (server, storage, networking and management) which exposes weaknesses in some traditional server providers. I would expect additional acquisitions and investments will occur particularly in the management space with networking and storage partnerships also remaining critical.”

Cisco by itself isn’t forcing its server rivals to change for the sake of change, he said. However, the company’s data centre strategy is evolving in response to the needs of enterprises and service providers that are rapidly adopting virtualisation — where more than half of their workloads are virtualised — and high rates of business change as IT tries to keep up with business demands, he said.

“Cisco is reading many of the same tea leaves in the market that signal the need for a new way of delivering compute, storage and networking for tomorrow’s data centre,” Eastwood said. “This creates challenges for traditional server vendors because these enterprise customers continue to represent the lion’s share of the enterprise profit pool and server vendors are fearful of another strong influencer in the market.”

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