Cisco's Unified Computing Takes Virtualization to New Level

Cisco's Unified Computing Takes Virtualization to New Level

When Cisco Systems yesterday announced its long-awaited Unified Computing System (UCS), it accomplished multiple goals at once. Not only does the company's new project aim to overhaul how data centers operate, but it also brought Cisco into the server market, made virtualization even easier for IT managers, and, in the words of ZDNet's editor-in-chief, "[tries] to bring sexy design to the data center."

The UCS is at its core a new blade server architecture, based on Intel's new Nehalem processors. The UCS B-series blade servers can be stacked 40 deep into Cisco's blade server chassis, which connects into interconnect switches linking anywhere from 1 to 320 physical servers and thousands of virtual machines into one interface.

The system is designed to bring together computing, network, storage and virtualization controls into one scalable system, controlling every function of a data center from a single location.

In a video introducing the UCS, Cisco CEO John Chambers explains: "A simple concept: Any device, over any combination of networks, to any information or processing capability." He adds, "It isn't just a new technology; it's an approach to virtualization and to the data center that is very unique in the industry."

Cisco says the UCS can cut down the total cost of ownership for data center equipment by 20 percent of capital expenditures by making virtualized servers more accessible, and improved energy efficiency can reduce operating expenditures by 30 percent.

The UCS was announced alongside a host of partnerships, both integral to bringing the project together and outward-facing partnerships to spread adoption of the technology. The UCS incorporates VMWare's virtualization technology into its fabric interconnects; Cisco made use of Intel's next-gen Nehalem chips to power its blade servers; and Cisco and Accenture are teaming up to create the Accenture & Cisco Business Group, a new company aimed at helping companies incorporate the UCS technology into their IT departments.

Below is a graphic detailing how Cisco's Unified Computing System is structured; more details about the project are online at

Cisco's UCS schematic; click for full-sized photo. Cisco UCS Layout