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Cisco Pushes Unified Computing

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When Cisco first announced its Unified Computing System (UCS) product portfolio earlier this year it was all about its ‘B’ series blade servers. Now Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) is expanding its UCS product portfolio with a new ‘C’ series that includes three new rack servers, which are officially being announced at its Partner Summit now underway in Boston

The new rack servers entries bring Cisco into a new hardware vertical and provides a different entry point for enterprises to adopt UCS. The new ‘B’ series comes as Goldman Sachs research, cited by Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior during a Webcast press conference, reported that two thirds of surveyed IT executives expect an increased Cisco server presence in their data centers over the next two years. Warrior also noted that she sees the UCS market as being worth as much as $20 billion.

Though rack servers are often thought of as a volume market, Cisco executives noted that the ‘C’ series is not about Cisco entering the volume server market.

“This is not Cisco entering the rack-mounted space. That idea diminishes what we’re actually doing here,” John Growdon director of Go-To-Market Worldwide channels at Cisco said during the press conference. “What we’re doing is the Unified Computing Architecture and how we implement that and bring it to market will have different formats. We are in the UCS space with an architecture and this is another form factor of how we are taking it to market. It’s not that we’re going after and selling undifferentiated rack mounted servers.”

Cisco’s UCS is an effort to bring together, storage, networking and servers into a single unified fabric with massive memory and virtualization capabilities.

Cisco will have three new units, with availability set for the end of 2009. The UCS C 200M1 is a 1U unit with 12 DIMMs providing up to 96GB of memory, and the space for four SAS/SATA drives with two PCIe adaptors.

The UCS C 210M1 is a 2U device also with support for up to 96GB but with more disk and PCIe space. The 210m1 can handle up to 16 drives and has 5 PCIe adaptor slots.

The third device in the C series is the 250M1, which supports 48 DIMMs and up to 384GB of memory, eight drives and five PCIe adaptors.

“This provides our customers with the flexibility to choose the form factor and to offer the key attributes of the system to both form factors,” Soni Jiandani, vice president of marketing for Server Access Virtualization at Cisco, said.

She added that the idea is to enable rack-mounted server users with a path towards consolidating their compute assets across the enterprise whether they are rack or blade server based.

Jiandani said that Cisco sees the new C series of rack servers being deployed both as standalone rack servers as well as being provisioned in a full UCS architecture. Cisco’s UCS manager provides tools that enable server assets to be provisioned and managed, but it is not a required element for a C series rack.

Jiandani added that enterprises could just choose to use their existing server deployment tools and benefit from the expanded memory and speed capabilities of the C series, while having an upgrade path to UCS management in the future.

“Customers that we talk to are interested in the C series rack series because it gives them the flexibility of form factor,” Jiandani said. “It allows them to buy compute capacity that they can map someday into a pool of compute resources. We believe that ultimately if the architecture is to be virtualized you cannot buy compute power in isolation.”

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