Cisco unveils Unified Computing System

Cisco has stepped up efforts to merge computing and networking capabilities into a unified architecture that will serve as a bridge between diverse resources in data centers.

The Cisco Unified Computing System fuses computing, network, storage access and virtualization resources into a single, energy-efficient system, and marks the company entry into the server arena.

To help organizations accelerate the transition to the Unified Computing architecture, Cisco is offering a suite of new Unified Computing services. In addition, the company announced collaboration with industry leaders on the Unified Computing System and architecture, Cisco officials said.

“Cisco’s move could signal a milestone in the convergence of computing and networking,” according to Ovum senior analyst Tim Stammers, in a brief report on the announcements.

The push toward server virtualization offers organizations the ability to move virtual machines easily from one physical server to another, providing better availability, load balancing and disaster recovery. But as virtual machines are moved the storage and local area networks that support them have to be properly managed. As a result, more integration is required between different management systems, Stammers said.

Vendors in the virtualization space such as Citrix, Microsoft and VMware recognize this and are moving to develop virtual data center operating systems with integrated management capabilities. Moreover, if Cisco users are buying blade servers from Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM, then they might use those companies’ tools to manage virtual and physical environments, Stammers said. HP and IBM are already competing with Cisco with networking switches.

Cisco knows that in order to maintain its advantage in the networking arena, the company will have to manage much more than just the networks, Stammers said.

To that end, key Unified Computing System elements include:

  • Compute - Cisco designed an entirely new class of computing system which incorporates the new Cisco UCS B-Series blades based on the future Intel Nehalem processor families (the next generation Intel Xeon processor). The Cisco blades offer extended memory technology to support applications with large data sets and allow significantly more virtual machines per server.
  • Network - The Cisco Unified Computing System provides support for a unified fabric over a low-latency, lossless, 10 Gigabit-per-second Ethernet foundation, company officials said. This network foundation consolidates what today are three separate networks: LANs, storage area networks (SANs) and high performance computing networks. This lowers costs by reducing the number of network adapters, switches, and cables and by decreasing power and cooling requirements, officials said.
  • Virtualization - The Cisco Unified Computing System aims to enhance the scalability, performance and operational control of virtual environments. Cisco security, policy enforcement, and diagnostics features are now extended into dynamic virtualized environments to better support changing business and IT requirements.
  • Storage Access - The Cisco Unified Computing System provides consolidated access to both SANs and to network attached storage. Support for a unified fabric means that the Unified Computing System can access storage over Ethernet, Fiber Channel, Fiber Channel over Ethernet or iSCSI.
  • Management - Management is integrated into all the components of the system, enabling the entire solution to be managed as a single entity through the Cisco UCS Manager. The Cisco UCS Manager provides an intuitive graphical user interface, a command line interface and an application programming interface to manage all system configuration and operations.
  • Energy Efficiency - IT managers can achieve more energy efficient data centers with the Cisco Unified Computing System since it uses one-half the components, and requires less cabling and power/cooling than legacy server installations, Cisco officials said.

Cisco Unified Computing Services

Cisco suite of new Unified Computing Services offered by the company and its partners include architecture design, planning, and migration, to operations, and remote management.

Cisco is collaborating with industry leaders to help stimulate technology innovation and augment service delivery including Accenture, BMC Software, EMC, Intel, Microsoft, and VMware.

The Cisco Unified Computing System and associated services will be generally available to users starting in the second quarter of 2009.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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