Cisco unveils its virtualization-friendly blade platform Unified Computing System

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Finally, after more than three months since broke the news, Cisco is ready to unveils its much rumored blade system codenamed California, dubbed as Unified Computing System (UCS).

The announcement was made a few minutes ago by John Chambers, Cisco CEO, and top notch executives from Intel (Paul Otellini, CEO), VMware (Paul Maritz, President and CEO), EMC (Joe Tucci, CEO), BMC Software (Bob Beauchamp, CEO) and Microsoft (Bob Muglia, President of Server and Tools Business).


For Cisco “unified computing” means data center networking, unified fabric as well as private and extranet-intranet clouds (Cisco calls this “inter-cloud).

To deliver this architecture the company is calling a number of partners, not just the ones above: Accenture, BMC Software, CSC, EMC, Emulex, Intel, Microsoft, Net App, Novell, Oracle, QLogic, Red Hat, SAP, Tata, VMware and Wipro.

Intel collaborates with Cisco on this project not only for the Nehalem CPUs, but also for the 10Gb Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) part.

Besides FCoE, UCS will access the storage (provided by EMC) will be accessible through Ethernet, Fibre Channel and iSCSI.

Easy to guess VMware is going to certify the upcoming vSphere 4.0 for this platform and ship it with Cisco Nexus 1000V.

Microsoft is going to do the same, with an OEM agreement to ship Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V (or Windows Server 2003 or SQL Server 2008).
Anyway the involvement of Microsoft is limited as their System Center Virtual Machine Manager (or other components of the System Center family) is not going to ship with the hardware.

On top of the hypervisors and their management tools UCS will ship with BMC software management and automation technology.

The whole thing will be orchestrated by the new UCS Manager (available as GUI and command line interface).
Additionally, Cisco will provide an open API for management, to simplify the transition from “legacy” data center infrastructures.

But for now Cisco is not yet showing what UCS Manager can really do, so there’s no way to measure the level of innovation and the capability to compete with Egenera on the software stack integration.

The only public things right now are the fact the platform can be segmented to simulate up to 320 isolated servers, with thousands of virtual machines, and its components:


  • Cisco UCS 6100 Series Fabric Interconnects is a family of line-rate, low-latency, lossless, 10-Gbps Cisco Data Center Ethernet and FCoE interconnect switches that consolidate I/O within the system. Both 20-port 1RU and 40-port 2RU versions accommodate expansion modules that provide Fibre Channel and/or 10 Gigabit Ethernet connectivity.
  • Cisco UCS 5100 Series Blade Server Chassis supports up to eight blade servers and up to two fabric extenders in a 6RU enclosure without the need for additional management modules.
  • Cisco UCS 2100 Series Fabric Extenders bring unified fabric into the blade-server chassis, providing up to four 10-Gbps connections each between blade servers and the fabric interconnect, simplifying diagnostics, cabling, and management.
  • Cisco UCS B-Series Blade Servers based on next generation Intel Xeon processors adapt to application demands, intelligently scale energy use, and offer best-in-class virtualization. Each blade server utilizes network adapters for access to the unified fabric. Cisco’s unique memory-expansion technology substantially increases the memory footprint, maximizing performance and capacity for demanding virtualization and large-dataset workloads. In addition, the technology offers a more cost-effective memory footprint for less-demanding workloads.
  • Cisco UCS Network Adapters are offered in a mezzanine-card form factor. Three types of adapters offer a range of options to meet application requirements, including adapters optimized for virtualization, compatibility with existing driver stacks, or efficient, high-performance Ethernet.
  • Cisco UCS Manager provides centralized management capabilities that serve as the central nervous system of the Cisco Unified Computing System. Cisco UCS Manager is the embedded software that unifies system components into a seamless, cohesive, system

No specific word on pricing or availability, but is providing the general availability for Q2 2009 (during the Q&A session Cisco mentioned April 09), which means that VMware vSphere will be likely available in Q2 2009.

Update: As usual, Scott Lowe has some brief but very interesting details to add to the UCS story.