With the UCS, Cisco Proves That It Can Sell Preconfigured Data Center Systems

Analysis: Less than three years out, Cisco Systems' Unified Computing System has 10,000 customers with product orders at an annualized run rate of $1.1 billion.

One year after it started shipping its partner-powered Unified Computing System in July 2009, Cisco Systems announced that it had 1,000 installations processing data workloads in climate-controlled IT centers.

That number alone is noteworthy, because these are not trivial data center units. They require more than a modicum of thought, planning and investment, and most being in the mid-six-figure price range, they are certainly not cheap.

As of Jan. 18, 2012-less than three years after the March 16, 2009 introduction of the UCS-the world's No. 1 Internet pipefitter is proclaiming that it now has 10 times that many installations in production. Ten thousand sales of anything IT, especially as big as these things are, is very impressive.

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UCSes are being used to power virtual desktop systems with thousands of users, ATMs, video surveillance systems, hospital X-ray imaging archives, science and military installations-in other words, any and all types of data centers.

Congratulations certainly are in order for those who run Cisco. It's not easy to break into an entire new heavyweight IT division such as data center systems and be competent against the likes of the well-entrenched IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Dell, and a bevy of smaller and more specialized manufacturers.

A UCS Refresher

As a refresher, we'll define Cisco's UCS. It is a preconfigured, snap-together system (well, there is some wiggle room for customization, but not much) consisting of its own proprietary data center architecture, server and management software and services. The servers run on Intel's quad-core Nehalem Xeon processors and can be upgraded as needed. The system is modular and very scalable.

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EMC and its archenemy, NetApp-both friends of Cisco-provide the storage capacity. BMC is providing the provisioning, change management and configuration software in the stack. VMware and Microsoft virtualization layers are sanctioned, and Accenture helps shape the individual product solutions for customers.

The Intel contribution, however, was the key to the whole deal. Without the quad-core horsepower under the hood of the UCS's B-Class server, all this new computing ability couldn't fly as well as the market demanded.

These all are top-flight partners. CEO John Chambers (above right) and Cisco management chose wisely, as the sales figures have borne out.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he...