Cisco now sells blade servers...wait, what?

Today, Cisco announced their new Unified Computing System (UCS). UCS is a complete data center platform that incorporates network and blade servers that integrate into your existing Cisco core, as well as storage connectivity.

Today, Cisco announced their new Unified Computing System (UCS). UCS is a complete data center platform that incorporates network and blade servers that integrate into your existing Cisco core, as well as storage connectivity. The system can support up to 40 blade server chassis that each hold eight blades for a total of 320 blade servers.

We've been keeping our eyes on this for a while now, trying to see if it would actually happen or not. There's been quite a bit of chatter both for and against the idea of a Cisco blade server, but the detractors have primarily been talking about Cisco's Nexus line of chassis/virtualization technologies.

The question we've spent the most time asking ourselves has been, "If this happens, what does this have to do with us?" Cisco's virtualization vision has been evolving since at least 2007, when they invested heavily in VMware shortly before their IPO. Until recently, the most notable product result of that relationship is the Nexus 1000v switch, which is a software implementation of a Cisco switch that runs within the VMware vNetwork switch framework.  That's worth mentioning, but hardly a fundamental application delivery concept.

So now that Cisco has entered the x86 server space and now competes with the very companies they once made products for (like the IBM BladeCenter line), what does this mean? Will you consider using Cisco products for your servers, or is your organization structured in a way that will make that hard? Companies I've worked for in the past have lacked the cooperation or integration between the network and server groups to simply drop in a solution that bridged the boundaries. Is the reason this is such a big deal simply because a networking company now sells servers, or is there a bigger revolution on the horizon? Cisco obviously has the latter in mind, but will it work out?

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Can they compete on price with the competition?


Also, consider the features; HP has things like iLO and ICE.  I have not read up on this yet, but am interested what components Cisco is incorporating into their blades that will match aspects like that.


Cisco has a lot of catching up to in the blade server market, HP already has high quality blades for years. I defenitly would not recommend a customer to pruchase a Cisco blade at this moment.


We go out of our way to avoid Cisco wherever possible, so this is a large "meh" for us.  We've already standardized on HP Blades for our setup, and as TheCitrixNinja pointed out, I have yet to see if the Cisco setup has some of the features that HP has had for a while now.  I suppose the only thing that could possibly make us consider the Cisco solution would be if they were some 50% more efficent on power or something, as the HP Blade density brings some power challenges for us.  Overall though, Cisco is definitely late to the game, and I for one am glad we don't have to cough up the arm and a leg we used to pay for SMARTnet...


It'll be interesting to see.. Cisco may own the switching and routing market but quality if their products have steadily declined over the years.


as mass virtualization will challenge the I/O stack, as virtualization could become real with component spread accross racks, I'm not surprise to see Cisco get into the game...

I' really would like to see what will be the reaction of HP/DELL/IBM against this new intruder in their garden and with VMWare that ally with stranger on this topic. Will also be curious to see how Citrix and MSFT will react (not alliance) to counter this...


@Kata Tank,

Microsoft is a partner in Project California so I'm guessing they are working closely with Cisco to ensure Hyper-V runs well on the new platform.



You ask some good questions.  The Cisco UCS is about skating to where the puck will be.  Cisco sees some server virtualization as a driving force in the data center and the UCS was designed with that in mind--its was not built to court conflict with current server vendors, it was built to catch the industry transition around virtualization.  

The org structure question is a good one.  We find virtualization to be forcing change in customer's it organizations.  For example, with ESX, we already have a switch running in a server, so the traditional lines are already blurring.  The response to our 1000V and its ability to automatically coordinate network services with the hypervisor has been phenomenal, since it helps customers address the growing problem around management complexity of virtualized environments.  The Cisco UCS simply expands that model into an even more holistic management model.  The result we expect is significantly reduce mgmt and operations costs, less headaches for IT teams, and broader/faster deployment of sever virtualization.

To answer so of the other questions:

@rahvintzu - Our analysis shows that the system cost--what it truly costs you to own and operate a system for, say 3 years, will be meaningfully lower--details are forthcoming

@TheCitrixNinja - Being Cisco, you can be assured that UCS offers the very best I/O options, but the important part is that I/O is handled at a system level, so as you create/move/destroy VMs, the associated I/O management activities are quietly handled in the background.

@Danny van Dam - Yes, we understand we are a new name in the server space and I understand your sentiment.  We are, however, a company with a proven track record and all I ask, at this point, is that you keep an open mind

@Nick Fields - As with Danny, I would simply ask that you keep an open mind.  Our analysis shows meaningful long term cost savings from a number of sources including lowered facility costs such as power, cooling, floor/rack space and cabling

@Kata Tank - Good perception--virtualization is forcing a number of changes in IT--UCS is a natural outcome of that--we built it for where the industry and customers are going

@Joe Shink - We have also partnered with a number of other folks that might already be in your data center, including Red Hat and Novell, with more coming


Omar Sultan



I don't think a Cisco rep would ever be brave enough to step foot back in our doors after one told our CIO - "You know CIO's have lost their jobs for not going with us" - when we were looking at networking vendors. Needless to say we have Aruba and Foundry all over campus!