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Cisco Announces UCS Enhancements

LAS VEGAS: Cisco made a number of Unified Computing System-related announcements at its annual customer event, Cisco Live, including new fabric interconnects, a virtual interface card, chassis I/O module and version 2.0 of the UCS Manager software. Since entering the data center server market in 2009, and effectively declaring war on former partners HP, IBM and Dell, Cisco has captured third place in x86 blade server shipments worldwide as of the first quarter of 2011, according to the IDC report "IDC Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker," May 2011, and second place in the United States. There are currently more than 5,400 UCS customers, with more than a thousand being added quarterly. And to add injury to insult, Cisco's Soni Jiandani, VP, server access virtualization business unit, says 70% of the UCS customers came at HP's expense.

Offering 2x UCS system switching capacity to 1Tbps, 48 unified ports and 40% end-to-end latency reduction (from 5.2usec to 3.2usec), the Fabric Interconnect 6248UP simplifies configuration: Any port can be designated as 1 Gbit Ethernet, 10 Gbit Ethernet, Fibre Channel (2/4/8 gigabits) or Fibre Channel over Ethernet. The Fabric Extender 2208XP Chassis IO Module offers 2x bandwidth, 160 Gbps to the blade chassis, while the Virtual Interface Card-VIC 1280 quadruples bandwidth to the server.

UCS Manager, which manages all system configuration and operations for both UCS blade servers and rack-mount servers, has been updated (to version 2.0) with VMware vCenter for UCS and UCS Express, enabling customers to organize, provision and configure the virtualized IT environment across branch offices and the data center. Also new is Red Hat KVM integration for VIC.

Cisco also announced a new version (4.4) of its Wide Area Application Services Software (WAAS) WAN optimization and application acceleration solution. Enhancements include application-aware data redundancy elimination (DRE), integrated application performance monitoring (APM) and new reporting capabilities, including reports on top talkers and application response times, as well as before-and-after snapshot reports.

Other enhancements to Cisco's product line include IronPort Outbreak Filters and Cisco Business Class Email. Leveraging the company's recent investment in ScanSafe Cloud Web Security, Outbreak Filters helps block targeted attacks. Business Class Email provides four pillars for managing and accessing email: automatic user identification, embedded email controls, strong security and universal device support.

According to two Cisco customers participating in the Wednesday announcements, UCS has delivered impressive results. Steven Senecal, manager of global server engineering, Travelport, said the company was adding approximately 125 servers and 66 virtual machines per month, and was looking for ways of handling this growth. In the last 15 months, Travelport, which provides transaction processing services to more than 60,000 travel agencies, has increased its cabling and hardware efficiency eight times, cut operating expenses by moving from 12 to four switches, and shortened server deployment from weeks to hours. "It's really quite amazing when you start to see the benefits in such a short period of time," Senecal says.

The other customer, NASDAQ OMX, operates 70 exchanges in more than 20 markets and has more than 150 clients co-located in its data center. The company recently deployed Cisco's Nexus 5000 and 2000 switches, says Lou Mondano, head of global infrastructure. Benefits included reducing trading network latency to less than 10usec while doubling port capacity and without having to add switches.

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