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Cisco releases its next generation of UCS

Networking giant launches new servers, switches, SANs for Data Center 3.0 initiative

Last year the launch of Unified Computing System (UCS) by Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO) of San Jose, Calif., promised to shake up the data center market place. It did that and more.

The initial release only had three products and three solution provider partners in Canada that could actually sell it. UCS combined computing, networking and storage access along with virtualization resources into one system for the data centre. The networking giant’s goal with UCS was to build an energy efficient solution that would reduce capital and operation costs and deliver business agility.

About a year later, the next generation of UCS has pretty much the same concept. Paul Durzan, director of Cisco’s platform marketing, told CDN that the company still wants to drive innovation in the data center 3.0 world. “When we announced UCS we wanted to reduce the total cost of ownership and improve business agility while reducing infrastructure costs for a virtualizaed data center,” he said.

The second generation UCS will consist of seven new offerings including blade and rack servers powered by Intel’s Xeon 7500 processor. This more than doubles the initial UCS offering. What’s new in this offering is what Durzan said is at the heart of the UCS platform: FEXlink switching fabric extension architecture. FEXlink aims to reduce management, cables, network costs, while simplifying the chassis creating a highly scalable network of servers. When compared to current networking equipment being used by customers FEXlink can save approximately $45,000 per chassis, while adding benefits such as bandwidth management and better port utilization.

As part of the UCS announcement, Cisco also released two Nexus fabric extenders. This product is supped up and can support speeds above Gigabit Ethernet. The company made available an MDS FibreChannel SAN switch and an appliance for provisioning services to virtual machines.

”This offering is enough to meet the demand today and it allows Cisco to meet any mainstream demands in blades and rackmount for next generation computing. For people with more intense computing we’ll be coming out with the (Intel) Nehalem processor for blades this summer,” Durzan said.

“It lets you take the Nexus fabric and scale it to as much as you want,” says Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at The Yankee Group. “It’s a good way to get people started (with Nexus switching) at relatively low price/points and extend it without waiting for the (higher-end Nexus) 7000.”

Cisco said it has 2,000 customers and one million ports shipped of the Nexus 2000 line. The 2232 and 2248 are both available this quarter at an entry price of US$9,000.

Last year’s UCS launch was also the tipping point in the company’s battle with HP. This along with many other factors led to Cisco de-authorizing HP as a reseller. The next generation UCS also takes aim at IBM. But, in the IT world of co-opetition, Durzan said that both IBM and even HP will still be viewed as partners in the UCS manager enhanced manager area.

Cisco will be working with HP as well as BMC Software, CA, Microsoft and VMwareto provide integrated solutions with UCS Manager. Cisco’s major original storage manufacturers (OSM) partners plan to resell the new Cisco MDS 9148 switch, however Cisco cannot announce OSM availability timing or pricing. “This does not have anything to do with HP being delisted as a reseller,” he said.p>