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Cisco Responds to 'Unified Computing' Critics

Cisco raised a lot of hackles last month when it introduced a new vision for enterprise data centers, proposing a Unified Computing System that would treat servers, storage, and networking as a pool of virtual resources than can be dynamically allocated as needed to meet the constantly changing demands of business processes and applications. It also announced plans for a new series of blade server products that would put it into direct competition with existing partners such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and IBM.

It didn't take long for current and future competitors to criticize Cisco's plans, with HP and Brocade the first out of the gate. Other vendors, analysts, and users soon piled on with criticisms and questions and comments in briefings, in blog posts, and on the Byte and Switch message board.

Apparently, Cisco's feelings were hurt, and the networking giant responded Thursday with more details of its product plans and some cost figures, adding more fuel to a fire that's building over a product that isn't yet available. The company took aim and tried to counter the "top five myths" surrounding its UCS: It isn't new or innovative; it requires a forklift upgrade; it is expensive and doesn't scale; it will take control away from IT managers; and it is only good for VMware environments.

Cisco's main goal is to reduce the layers of complexity that exist in today's data centers, said Paul Durzan, director of the server access business unit at Cisco. By using standardized building blocks to build a data center infrastructure, IT departments can build an integrated cohesive system with a unified fabric for LANs and SANs and a management system that can treat everything as a single domain. He called that one of the "top innovations" of the system. Another innovation: "We use service profiles to abstract the hardware state from the blade itself and we can give the blade the identity and personality it should have. In the past that had to be done manually and now it can be automated," he said in an interview. Other innovations cited by Durzan included embedded management, a patented memory extension, scalable bandwidth, and a virtualization adapter.

Cisco also released a series of benchmarks showing that its systems rank at or near the top in most categories. "The point here is that we are standing toe to toe with HP, IBM, and Dell and bringing in a high-performance system to the market. We brought in a lot of people who have a lot of experience designing servers," he said.

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