Cisco Expands UCS, Data Center Vision

Cisco Systems is rolling out a host of new hardware, software and services offerings as it evolves its vision between Data Center 3.0.

Cisco Systems is evolving its data center vision, adding in what officials are calling unified network services, introducing new switching capabilities and expanding its all-in-one solution to include a blade server.

The new offerings, which expand on Cisco's Data Center 3.0 strategy introduced three years ago, were announced during an analyst event Sept. 14.

Cisco officials see the role of the data enter changing with the rise of such technologies as virtualization, unified computing and the cloud. The company is looking to meet the demand through internal innovation and partnerships with the likes of EMC and VMware, and in the process grow its presence in the data center beyond it networking roots.

"The data center has grown from a cost-center to something customers now consider a strategic asset," Shashi Kiran, director for data center virtualization marketing for Cisco, said in an interview with eWEEK.

The goal is to make the data center infrastructure as dynamic and flexible as possible, according to Cisco officials.

Cisco's expansion includes the roll out of Unified Network Services, additions to the company's Unified Fabric pillar and the addition of memory blades to the UCS (Unified Computing System).

The new United Network Services include the Virtual Security Gateway, a virtual appliance aimed at improving security in virtualized data center environments at the virtual machine level. Cisco's vWAAS (Virtual Wide Area Application Services) is a cloud-ready WAN optimization offering designed to speed up application performance in virtualized environments. The services are delivered through a virtual appliance that runs on VMware's ESX/ESXi hypervisor along with the UCS or other x86 systems.

Cisco also is rolling out a new Nexus 5000 switch, the 5548. The 1U 48-port switch doubles the port density in the same area, and offers 50 percent fewer management points and 40 percent less power consumption, Kiran said. In addition, any port can be configured as Fibre Channel or Ethernet.

In addition, Cisco unveiled the Nexus Fabric Extender 2224TP, which brings together the Nexus 5000 and 7000 to give users increased options for network connectivity, and the Catalyst 6513-E chassis, with more than 2 Terabit switching capacity. Cisco also is integrating it EnergyWise 2.0 and TrustSec technologies into the Catalyst 4900 product, increasing the software's energy efficiency and security.

Cisco is adding the B230 M1 blade server to its UCS, which includes computing, storage, networking, virtualization and management software in a single offering. The new high-width blade, powered by Intel Xeon 6500 and 7500 processors, brings the number of servers in the UCS to eight.

Todd Brannon, senior manager of data center product marketing at Cisco, said the company is seeing growing interest in the UCS, which was unveiled a year ago, from both end users and partners. Cisco executives in May said that there were about 800 UCS customers; that number grew to 1,700 in August. About 40 ISVs are adopting the all-in-one platform, he said.

"We're starting to get about a year into the business here, and adoption is beginning to accelerate," Brannon said in an interview. "As the new systems vendor on the block, we have to perform, and we're doing that."

Cisco also is adding several new services, including Desktop Virtualization Services. The move comes a week after Cisco and virtualization vendor Citrix Systems announced a partnership to create a prepackage VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) solution that relies on Cisco's networking expertise and Citrix's virtualization background.