Cisco is claiming its new Unified Computing architecture will save IT departments 20% cheaper on their hardware costs and 30% on IT running costs, compared with traditional systems.Launched on Monday, March 16, the Unified Computing System unites computing, network, storage access, and visualization resources in a single energy efficient system, the company said. This puts it into direct competition with IBM, HP and other hardware vendors for the first time.

According to Jon Oltsik, senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group, this are the pluses and minuses of the new Cisco product:

Pluses

Innovative packaging that requires less rack space, power, and cooling than a standard blade server.

Designed for tight integration with server virtualization and the network.

a. Cisco Virtual switch (i.e. VN-Link) replaces VMware switch. This links virtual and physical networking policy and management.

b. Cisco adds extra memory to its server platforms, which enables it to increase the ratio of virtual servers hosted on each physical server.

Cisco manages the entire UCS virtual data center with one management platform. Cisco management can be integrated with other management platforms from vendors like BMC.

The overall strength is in integrating and improving both storage and network I/O. In this regard, Cisco could have a significant performance advantage in large data center deployments.

Minuses

Extremely proprietary architecture. Heck, Cisco is implementing its own version of Ethernet (What is more standard than Ethernet, for heaven’s sake?) to consolidate storage and network I/O. The “real” standards won’t be in place for another year or two.

This is a brand new arena for Cisco where its market share is 0 percent. With Dell, HP, and IBM well established in this market, expect enterprise CIOs to proceed with extreme caution.

The advantages of this architecture are minimal in a mixed environment. Today, all enterprises have other servers, and heterogeneous server support is not a core feature of this announcement.

Systems management has always been a Cisco weakness. HP and IBM are much better positioned here.

*Used with permission from CBS Interactive, Inc., Copyright 2009. All rights reserved

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Cisco’s UCS: A closer look
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