Cisco Systems is joining other server makers in introducing new Intel Xeon E5-2600 series processors in its hardware. But unlike HP, Dell and other manufacturers, Cisco is introducing a whole new system of compute, networking, virtualization and management technology in the third generation of its Unified Computing System (UCS) offering.
Cisco is offering three new servers with more coming as new members of the Intel E5 family are introduced this year. First is the B200 M3, a blade server intended for virtual desktop infrastructure, private cloud or "dense virtualization" environments. The C220 M3 is a 1-rack-unit (1RU) server billed as a general-purpose enterprise infrastructure and application server; the C240 M3 is a 2RU server intended for big data, enterprise resource planning and database applications. The servers are available this month.
With this third-generation UCS, Cisco is also making available the Nexus Fabric Extender, which connects servers to the LAN and the SAN, for both blade and rack servers; the previous-generation UCS was just for blades, says Brian Schwarz, director of product management at Cisco.
New networking products include the 6296UP Fabric Interconnect, which doubles the switching capacity of the UCS fabric to 1.92 Tbits per second (T bps) from 960 Gigabits per second (G bps) in the previous generation. Latency is also reduced by 40% and energy consumption, based on watts per port, is reduced by 36%. A new I/O module, the 2240XP, supports 80G or 160G bps, offering more bandwidth to the UCS chassis; the VIC1240 provides 40 Gbps of capacity, which can be sliced up into virtual interfaces delivering flexible bandwidth to the UCS blades.
The UCS management firmware runs in the Fabric Interconnect and can now manage blade and rack server environments as one. Also, the management software can run multiple UCS data centers, even in different physical locations. IT can manage and monitor all of their UCS installations centrally as well as deploy policies, profiles and templates.
Although Cisco has only been in the server business since 2009, the company claims to be making some headway against more established vendors such as IBM, HP and Dell. In the fourth quarter of 2011, Cisco ranked third, behind HP and IBM, in worldwide blade server market share, with 11% of the market, based on revenue. This represents an increase of 5.3 share points from from the fourth quarter of 2010, according to IDC.
Representatives also said Cisco reached the No. 2 spot in the U.S. market for x86-based blade servers in the fourth quarter, but publicly available IDC numbers don't break results down by country. The x86 server architecture represented 64% of all server sales in the quarter, IDC noted.
The research firm also noted that server revenue declined slightly in the fourth quarter--by 1.7%--as buyers waited for Intel to introduce the Xeon E5 processors (code-named Sandy Bridge) this quarter.
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