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.
Cisco Expands UCS Portfolio for Cloud, Enterprise Edge
For cloud service providers, Cisco is introducing the UCS M-Series modular systems that leverage the vendor’s UCS fabric computing to fit into scale-out data center environments. The 2U (3.5-inch) chassis holds eight compute cartridges, each of which holds two compute nodes and is powered by two Intel Xeon E3 chips. There are no adapters or hard drives, and the servers share such resources as storage (four solid-state drives) and networking (dual 40G-bit connectivity). The local fabric for the compute nodes comes from Cisco’s third-generation virtual interface card.
Cisco also is introducing the UCS C3160 rack server, which offers high-capacity local disk storage for such workloads as data analytics, unstructured data repositories and media streaming and transcoding.
For remote sites, branch offices and small IT spaces, Cisco is rolling out the UCS Mini, a key area, given that 48 percent of servers are located outside the data center, Brannon said.
“We’re putting the compute nearer the growing sources of demand,” he said. “You get everything you see in a full-blown, data center-scale UCS … in this very small package.”
The UCS Mini is an all-in-one solution for the one- to 15-server scale that comes in a compact form factor, complete with compute, networking UCS Manager software and standard UCS blades, fans and power supplies. It includes Cisco’s 6248 Fabric Interconnects.
In addition, Cisco is unveiling the UCS B200 M4 blade server and the C220 M4 and C240 M4 rack servers in the latest generation of UCS systems, as well as UCS Director Express for Big Data, which automatically deploys Hadoop and gives businesses a single management tool for both the physical infrastructure and Hadoop software.
Cisco is scheduled to delve deeper into the UCS solution and its data center business at an event Sept. 4 in New York City.