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Abstracting Computing Resources Into Block

UCS (unified computing systems) came on the IT scene in 2009 as an alternate virtualization strategy and presented a viable option for the nearly 70 percent of data center hardware and software assets that were not yet virtualized. Cisco's UCS approach was a useful virtualization strategy for siloed enterprise applications designed to run on physical servers, but not in traditional virtualized environments. Cisco accepted the fact that these applications required their own hardware and offered a means of creating a resource-sharing "fabric" for hardware-resident assets that was capable of yielding similar resource-sharing benefits to software-based virtualization.

Components in the Cisco UCS framework included fabric interconnect switches that navigated Ethernet and Fibre Channel communications with low latency and data loss, blade and rack-mount servers with fabric extenders and scalability for applications, network adapters, and an overall system manager.

Since Cisco's UCS introduction, major data center vendors like HP have also begun to offer solutions for the resource-sharing of hardware-bound applications, with fabric-generating options that pool resources throughout the data center, whether or not applications are able to hook into standard software-based virtualization. The looming question for IT is, how to best deploy unified computing systems?

The reality of major applications being unable to escape their physical servers is going to continue, and if IT can find a cost-effective means of arranging virtualized resource-sharing even in hardware-bound environments, so much the better. At some point, however, IT has to architect an overall virtualization and resource-sharing strategy, identifying where it will be able to use software-based virtualization, what its preferred virtualization path is going to be, and where it must look for other ways to achieve resource-sharing for hardware-bound applications.

There are two additional decisions concerning this architecture as well: whether a given asset will be inside corporate IT or in an external cloud environment, and how granular IT's knowledge of virtual hardware resource-sharing and management is going to be. Only after these issues are decided can IT inject a UCS or comparable approach for hardware-bound resource sharing.

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