Blades, Switches at Heart of Cisco Data Center Strategy

Commentary: Cisco's Nexus family of switches, as well as its new blade servers and virtualization plans, are key drivers of the company's Unified Computing System, eWEEK Labs says. Cisco is looking to revolutionize the way the data center operates. While the technology is said to be compatible with existing products, there is sure to be a significant upfront cost for enterprises looking to get in on Cisco's vision.

Cisco Systems is rolling out an ambitious data center strategy dubbed the Unified Computing System, and at the heart of it will be Cisco server blades and the Nexus family of switches.

The Nexus switches, along with protocols-including FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet)-and a significant collection to top-tier partners have been wielded together by Cisco to create an initiative to lower data center capital and operational costs.

Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers led the announcement program March 16 at the company's headquarters in San Jose, Calif.

The Nexus 7000, introduced last year, is a 10 GbE (Gigabit Ethernet) system that Cisco hopes will become the heart of the data center, with a "wire once" approach that reduces operational costs by putting compute, virtualization and storage access on a single platform. It's a compelling technology that competitors, including Juniper Networks, are meeting with new data center products that were also announced at the beginning of March.

IT managers who have identified data center server virtualization and storage access as key drivers for business success should put the Unified Computing System on their strategic planning horizon. Based on briefings I've had with Cisco and in looking at the company's other 10 GbE products, it is clear that getting in on the new platform will require a significant upfront cost.

The new equipment and services-while said to be compatible with existing infrastructure-are intended to be the next generation of data center equipment, unencumbered by Cisco's Catalyst routers and switches. The recession currently engulfing the world economy was top of mind at the launch event. This same turmoil may provide an opportunity for IT managers to implement the Unified Computing System.

As surviving companies pick up assets of failed competitors, the opportunity to build out a "greenfield" data center environment can be an option. Since the UCS will likely work best in those medium to large enterprise organizations that Cisco sees as the target audience for the technology, this greenfield option is a viable alternative to a status quo data center.

eWEEK Labs will be looking at the Cisco UCS in detail over the next several months to provide greater detail about how well the system components deliver on the claims made at the announcement.

Labs Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at [email protected].