Cisco adds rack server to data center computing system

Unified Computing System platform gains new server form factor for entry-level customers

Cisco this week extended its Unified Computing System data center convergence platform with rack mountable servers, saying the new form factor represents an "entry level" into UCS and more choice for customers.

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Cisco, however, did not disclose pricing for the 1RU and 2RU servers, which will be available in the fourth quarter.

The new C-Series rack-mount servers are designed to help accelerate the adoption of the Cisco unified computing and data center virtualization system. Like the predecessor B-Series blades, the C-Series rack mount servers utilize X86 Intel Xeon 5500 processors and are optimized for Cisco's memory expansion and virtualized adapter technologies, which are integral to UCS.

The addition of the C-Series lets customers pick the compute form factor that fits their current and future data center environments, Cisco says.

UCS is designed to tightly integrate computing, networking, storage access and virtualization into a single platform. It features memory extension technology for scaling virtual machines (VM); virtual adapters to reduce the number of physical adapters in a server; embedded management; and service profiles designed to stay with a VM as it moves around an enterprise.

These Cisco-developed advances, however, essentially rule out the participation of non-Cisco blade and rack servers in a UCS environment. Cisco has said previously that it has no plans to open up UCS to incumbent data center servers from HP, IBM, Dell or Sun.

Any plans to license the virtual adapter and memory extension technologies are null as well. Even though the C-Series rack servers will allow UCS to "reach out to the broad market," Soni Jiandani, Cisco's vice president of marketing for the server access virtualization group, evaded a question on multivendor server participation in UCS and technology licensing.

Asked during a virtual press conference if Cisco plans to open UCS to the broader market of multivendor blade and rack servers, and license the memory expansion and virtualized adapter technologies, Jiandani instead stressed the platform's support for adapters from multiple vendors and "open" APIs for management integration.

But later, in a one-on-one session, Jiandani said Cisco will not license UCS technologies and has no plans at present to have the platform support multivendor servers.

"Would Cisco license IOS?" she asked rhetorically. With regard to server support, she said, "Right now, we need to execute on helping our customers and we are heads-down focused on addressing needs across a broad segment of customers. [But we] never say never."

Cisco already seems to be garnering some attention with UCS, which is slated for a third quarter shipment. Citing a Goldman Sachs survey of 100 IT executives from Fortune 1000 companies, Cisco says nearly two-thirds of respondents expect increased presence for Cisco servers in their data centers in the next two to three years. Eighteen percent say they plan to evaluate Cisco UCS within the year.

Cisco says its total data center opportunity, including services, is more than $83 billion by 2012. The rack-mount server market for the two-socket sector was $12.8 billion in 2008.

Cisco also says about 70% of its data center sales partners are authorized resellers of compute products from a competitor. Cisco expects to have more than 500 data center network infrastructure partners in place in the next six months.

With that, Cisco this week also introduced two career certifications for its partners, which are intended to authorize them to sell and service unified data center technologies. The two individual certifications are Data Center Architect and Data Center Engineer.

Cisco is also rolling out an authorized partner program for the UCS C-Series servers, and a Data Center Channel Solutions Program that taps the expertise of its UCS technology partners -- EMC, NetApp, Microsoft, VMware, BMC Software, Intel, Red Hat and others.

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