Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Networking giant Cisco has unveiled its Unified Computing System (UCS) strategy, targeting IT managers with what chief executive John Chambers described as "not a product announcement, but a datacentre architecture announcement."

Chambers said the new platform would "unify compute hardware, network and storage access, with the power of virtualisation."

"We enter markets when we see an inflection point and this is the third of a five phase approach to our datacentre strategy," he said.

"It's going to be enterprise services-led - we've got high-touch engagements with enterprise customers and service providers."

Cisco said the datacentre architecture would incorporate a new server product, the UCS B-series blade server containing Intel's latest chip, the soon-to-launch Nehalem processor. No technical specifications were announced at the launch, but Cisco's designate executive vice president Rob Lloyd said more details would be released in April.

Currently Cisco has rolled out test systems to 10 beta sites and plans to seed trial rollouts to selected businesses as well. One customer who was named was IT service provider Savvis, although Chambers said there were also financial, automotive and service provider clients trialing the system.

Cisco said UCS would be an open system allowing, Microsoft, VMware and other virtualisation packages to run on top of the hardware, and several of Cisco's partners were involved in the global announcement.

VMware chief executive Paul Maritz said its customers were, "reaching for new levels of flexibility and efficiency."

"There's no more debate as to whether virtualisation is a good strategy, but it's incumbent on us to remove the roadblock from the current level of servers that have been virtualised by businesses. We're trying to move our software from enterprise-grade to cloud-grade – basically attempting to achieve 'cloud'-like levels of service," he said.

Microsoft's president for server and tools business, Bob Muglia, said that while all customers were looking to save money through virtualisation, there is also a chance "to save people costs in datacentre management."

EMC chief executive Joe Tucci described UCS as "game changing in terms of speed, cost, scale and eliminating complexity."

One of the current conundrums for datacentre managers is how to increase the percentage of servers being virtualised, while making the resulting virtual infrastructure easier to manage. BMC chief executive Bob Beauchamp said what was needed, "was a single pane of glass to manage all firms' virtual infrastructure. "

However, Blade Network Technologies president and chief executive, Vikram Mehta, warned customers that: "For Cisco, it's all about getting a bigger share of wallet from IT customers. There's not a lot of markets you can step into, and servers are a $60bn market. It's Cisco's relentless quest for growth that is overtaking what's best for customers."

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