Cisco expands UCS server, switch line

Cisco Systems Inc. announced Tuesday it will ship two Nexus 2000 series switches and will use Intel Corp.’s four-socket Nehalem 7500 microprocessors in two Unified Computing System servers scheduled to ship later this year.

San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco also announced the Fabric Extender – or Fexlink  -architecture, designed to connect switches with servers using either Ethernet, Fiber Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) or iSCSI. Cisco claims this will give its servers up to 160 Gigabits per second per blade.

The servers – the BB440 M1 blade server and the C460M1 rackmount server – are part of Cisco’s Unified Computing System product line, first announced last year. Cisco has yet to announce pricing for the new servers.

“We have moved on to our second generation blade and rackmount servers,” said Paul Durzan, director of product management for Cisco Unified Computing System.

With UCS, Cisco says users can combine computing, storage and networking functions into servers designed for virtualization.

Cisco claims companies can reduce cabling costs by up to 80 per cent by using Fexlink, which is on both the UCS servers and Nexus 5000 switches.

“It makes it easier to move from (a 1 Gbps) to a 10-Gig environment,” Durzan said. “You can upgrade software without shutting the server off.”

With its new UCS servers, Cisco claims it will have four times the computing capacity in the same space.

The major server vendors are all talking about the convergence of storage, servers and networking, said David Senf, director of the infrastructure solutions group at market research firm IDC Canada.

“Each is trumpeting the ability to be able to expand through their hardware, software or though (application program interfaces) to the other guys’ hardware and software,” he said. “The reality is that to be able to get the performance that the vendor is speaking about, the decision for a CIO is going to be based on sticking with that single vendor versus expanding. If you expand, cost goes up and performance can go down.”

Established vendors such as IBM Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Development Co. L.P. still dominate the x86 server market, Senf said.

“We’re not seeing a lot of shipments into the Canadian marketplace as of yet,” Senf said of Cisco UCS. “It’s a young offering.”

Cisco’s Nexus 2232 fabric extender, also announced Tuesday, provides 10 Gigabit Ethernet and Fiber Channel over Ethernet connectivity, which is a standard for storage networks. The Nexus 2248 fabric extender provides 100 Mbps and Gigabit Ethernet bandwidth.

Both the Nexus and UCS products are part of Cisco’s “Data Centre 3.0” product line, which also includes the MDS 9148 switch, which is for storage-area networks. It has 48 Fiber Channel ports that can transfer data at up to 8 Gbps.

When Cisco first announced UCS a year ago, it shook up the industry, prompting immediate reaction from HP.

Cisco’s UCS started with the B series blade server early last year and Cisco later released rackmount server versions of UCS, dubbed the C series.




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