Cisco has launched 'Unified Computing', a
next-generation datacentre effort that encompasses virtualisation,
a group of major technology partners and the networking company's
first foray into making server hardware.
At the heart of the initiative, announced overnight, is the idea
of providing a single cohesive "architecture", or set of products
and services, for datacentres that will let customers take full
advantage of virtualisation while keeping down costs and
The Unified Computing System is "an architecture that bridges
the silos in the datacentre into one unified architecture using
industry standard technologies", Cisco said in a statement.
The modular system has five key components: computing,
networking, virtualisation, storage access and management.
For the computing part, Cisco has introduced its own UCS
B-Series blade server, based on Intel's upcoming Nehalem
processor. The company said the blade will come with extended
memory technology that provides "significantly more virtual
machines per server" than other models. It also promises to handle
applications with large data sets. A PCI-Express connection means
the server can be linked to other parts of the unified
Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney told ZDNet.com.au sister site ZDNet UK that the server launch
was to be welcomed, but noted that Cisco was going into an area in
which it has no expertise. "They are trying to take the cost out
of servers," said Dulaney. "This is a very, very big deal for
By moving into servers, Cisco might find that networking
competitors such as HP's ProCurve will try to take some of its
territory, he said. "They will have to fend off competitors while
they make this big gamble," Dulaney said.
The networking component in the Unified Computing System is
based on 10Gbps Ethernet connections that run through three
separate types of existing network: local area networks (LANs);
storage-area networks (SANs); and high-performance computing (HPC).
This consolidation promises to allow customers to operate
datacentres with fewer network adapters, switches, and cables,
which could reduce costs. On virtualisation, Cisco said its
security, policy enforcement and diagnostics tools will now work in
The Unified Computing System is designed to provide access to
both SANs and NAS (network-attached storage). It supports access
over Ethernet, Fibre Channel, Fibre Channel over Ethernet or iSCSI
All these components can be managed as one using the Cisco UCS
Manager, which deals with all system configuration and operations.
The use of service profiles will let datacentre managers provision
applications in "minutes, rather than days", Cisco said.
Cisco has lined up several major technology companies to support
the Unified Computing initiative — what it calls an "open
ecosystem of partners". Red Hat, Intel, Novell, Oracle, NetApp and
QLogic have signed up to develop and collaborate on technology for
the platform. Going one step further, Microsoft, EMC, BMC Software
and VMware are providing services and full support, as well as
technical collaboration, for the Unified Computing System.