Cisco retools UCS server line

New modular and mini versions from Cisco scale up and down.

Cisco this week revamped its UCS server line with systems designed to scale form the largest cloud deployment to those with only up to 15 servers.

Cisco unveiled the UCS M-Series modular servers and UCS C3160 storage server for large-scale cloud computing. For smaller scale IT requirements at the enterprise edge of the cloud, Cisco, as expected, formally introduced the 6324 Fabric Interconnect, or "UCS Mini."

Together, the new products are intended to keep Cisco's momentum going in the data center server market. Since introducing UCS in 2009 and literally disrupting the data center server market, Cisco citing IDC figures says it has gained the No. 1 position in revenue share for x86 blades in the Americas, topping the likes of HP, IBM and Dell.

IDC analyst Matt Eastwood says the UCS server extensions expand Cisco's addressable market.

"They really needed to address the bare metal and hyperscale" requirements, he says. "Traditional UCS overshot that market."

Half of the server units deployed are not in data centers where traditional UCS is focused, but in server closets, Eastwood says. This is where UCS Mini will most likely find appeal.

But Cisco's challenge is to again disrupt incumbents HP, IBM and Dell, which are already established in this market with entrenched sales channels, Eastwood says.

"For Cisco, it will be a solution sale so they don't have to compete on a per server basis" where margins are very low, he says.

UCS now has 36,500 customers, is on a $3 billion annual run rate and experiencing 30%+ annual growth, and 85% of the Fortune 500 have invested in the product, Cisco says.

+MORE ON NETWORK WORLD:Cisco rivals size up UCS with usual reaction: caveat emptor+

To fuel that fire, Cisco's M-Series modular servers represent a re-architecting of traditional server designs to address the distribution of workloads on cloud computing environments. Whereas traditional server designs have two CPUs on a single blade with dedicated I/O and local storage on a PCIe fabric running multiple applications, M-Series utilizes 16 CPUs sharing local resources I/O, storage, power and cooling -- over a Cisco Virtual Interface Card (VIC) fabric to distribute processing of a single application.

A single 2RU M-Series chassis holds 16 Intel Xeon E3 compute nodes, with each of its eight cartridges housing two independent compute nodes. Each chassis shares four solid-state drives and dual 40G Ethernet connectivity. This eliminates the need for network adapters and hard disk drives per cartridge, Cisco says.

Cisco also says a single 2RU M-Series chassis can replace a 16RU rack of dedicated servers.

For large-scale content and data storage in clouds, Cisco introduced the C3160 rack storage server. The C3160 combines high-density local disk with modular compute in a 4U form factor. It's a dual processor server with up to 360TB of storage for Big Data and Hadoop applications, distributed file-systems, and media streaming and transcoding.

Combined with the M-Series modular servers, Cisco says the C3160 can help provision large scale applications, such as mobile gaming, and perform analytics on monetization trends and potential.

The 6324 Fabric Interconnect or "UCS Mini" is intended to provide a new architectural entry point for UCS computing by bringing it down to small scale requirements for remote sites, branch offices and customer premises. It is targeted at compute environments of one to 15 servers.

The 6324 is integrated directly into the blade server chassis where Cisco fabric extender modules typically go -- to simplify connectivity between the servers and a lossless 10G Ethernet network fabric, especially in space constrained environments. Up to now, UCS fabric interconnects have been external to the blade server chassis.

The 6324 costs $19,680 for a bundle consisting two UCS B200 M3 servers and two 6324 interconnects.

The M-Series servers cost $263,832 for an 80 node deployment on 40 dual CPU cartridges, or $3,298 per server. The UCS C3160 costs $35,396. The 6324 Fabric Interconnect is available now. The M-Series will be available in December and the C3160 is available in October.

Tags Cisco SystemsConfiguration / maintenancehardware systemsciscointernetcloud computingData CenterCisco Subnet

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