One month ago Cisco announced its plan to enter the x86 market with a blade system (Unified Computing System or UCS) that is specifically tailored for virtualization and fabric computing.
Trying to clarify that this is not just marketing hype the company also unveiled its key partners: BMC (for the automation layer), VMware (for the virtualization layer) and EMC (of course for the storage layer).
Despite that after one hour and a half the company didn’t disclose a single technical detail about how the platform works and how the technologies above blend together.
Additionally, the network vendor acquired last week Tidal Software, a company that focus on job scheduling, application performance management, and automation software, but didn’t say if it will be or not part of the UCS strategy.
The only concrete information emerged so far about UCS come from the blogosphere and are mostly about the hardware specifications.
Today finally Cisco talks about some more features of the blade system.
The first point is about the performance.
Using VMware ESX 3.5 (build 151628) with the VMMark benchmark UCS scored 24.14 with 17 tiles.
The performance analysis is not yet available online so there’s no way to know the technical specifications of the actual system to compare these numbers with the ones scored by HP, IBM, Dell and the others.
The second point is about the consolidation ratio.
Cisco claims that UCS can provide up to 3 times more virtual machines per server (probably meaning per blade).
The Cisco IT department is using UCS in production and reports up to 28,000 virtual machines deployed, with a minimum of 76 virtual machines per kilowatt of power.
Third point is about the hardware components.
Cisco has special memory modules optimized for the Intel Xeon 5500 CPU: each one is made of 4 standard DIMMs, so the processor can manage up to 48 DIMMs @ 1066 MHz (348GB) per blade.
Cisco claims that this approach saves a lot of money:
Fourth point is about pricing.
Cisco says that UCS is less expensive than a competitive blade system. One of the costs that is slashed is about the management software.
This point is confusing.
If Cisco gives away its management console, then it means that there is nothing more than a standard OEM agreement with VMware and BMC.
If instead Cisco is deeply integrating UCS Manager with vSphere and the BMC automation suite, it’s hard to believe this special package will be available at no cost.
Cisco stay mum on the software probably because the company can’t show VMware vSphere until VMware releases it, and this will not happen before April 21.
By that time Cisco will have to show where the real innovation is in managing the huge virtual data center that it wants customers to build inside UCS.