Cisco Expands UCS Portfolio for Cloud, Enterprise Edge

The networking giant is rolling out new offerings that will expand the reach of the converged infrastructure solution to new workloads.

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During an Aug. 13 conference call to discuss Cisco's quarterly financial numbers, CEO John Chambers talked about the strength of the vendor's data center business and, in particular, its converged infrastructure solution.

Cisco's data center business saw revenues jump more than 30 percent, and a key product was the company's Unified Computing System (UCS), a solution introduced in 2009 and one that instantly expanded Cisco's data center reach beyond the network and into the compute arena.

After touting the growth of the UCS unit—more than a 30 percent increase in revenues, more than 36,500 customers and a run rate of more than $3 billion—Chambers during the call uncharacteristically hinted about the future of the product.

"The innovation pipeline is very strong, and you should expect to see announcements in the fall that we'll continue to accelerate our momentum with UCS and add to our competitive advantage," the CEO said.

Cisco officials are making the announcement Sept. 4, unveiling a significant expansion of the UCS portfolio into new market segments, particularly cloud-scale computing and workloads at the edge of the enterprise. Todd Brannon, director of UCS marketing for Cisco, said it was the most significant announcement surrounding the business since the solution was launched five years ago.

The UCS offers Cisco servers, networking and management software, along with storage from partners like NetApp and virtualization from VMware, in a tightly integrated package, eliminating the work IT staffs normally have to do to integrate the various pieces themselves. Most other data center system vendors, including Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Dell and VCE, offer similar converged infrastructure solutions.

Industry trends like mobile computing, virtualization, the cloud and the Internet of things (IoT) are dramatically changing the way computing is done and what organizations are looking for from their data center infrastructure. Businesses want less complexity and lower operating expenses, better results from their virtualized environments and greater automation, and to be ready to move to the cloud.

"The industry is in transition," Brannon told eWEEK.

The UCS was aimed at traditional data center workloads. Now the company is unveiling additions to the UCS portfolio to address the workloads in the cloud and at the enterprise edge that the converged solution hadn't touched before. At the same time, Cisco introduced fourth generations of the UCS server as well as UCS Director management software. Company officials expect the moves to add more fuel to a solution that continues to see significant growth.

Along with the revenue and customer increases already mentioned, UCS has driven Cisco to the top position in x86 blade server revenues in the Americas, Brannon said. More than 75 percent of the Fortune 500 companies are UCS customers, and Cisco now has more than 3,600 channel partners selling the solution. Analysts from Gartner and IDC, in their recently quarterly server reports, found that Cisco's server revenues jumped more than 35 percent in the second quarter from the same period last year.