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I’m shaking my fist at the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS).  It’s making me let go of a Data Center solution that worked well in the past.

I worked for years on Cisco’s team that designed and managed our Data Centers.  In the early 2000s, hardware compaction strongly influenced our physical design.  Every few weeks it seemed a different manufacturer debuted a new server smaller and more powerful than its predecessor.  We could fit more gear into our cabinets and so found we had a lot more cabling to manage.  This was especially challenging in legacy Data Centers with cables routed below the under-floor plenum.  More cabling meant less airflow.  

My team solved the cable management issue by creating network substations.  Rather than running cables from each server cabinet location in the room to a main network row, we ran them to a nearby substation and then a lesser number of cables from the substations to the main row.I liked our substation solution.  It meant shorter cable runs, smaller patch fields and improved airflow, which saved us money in both cabling and energy consumption.  By pre-wiring the electrical conduits, pre-wiring the structured cabling and pre-patching the network substations, new hardware could also be set up quickly.  Someone could pick up a server from the receiving dock and have it operational in a matter of hours.  Life was good. 

A network substation, made obsolete thanks to the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS).

Then in 2009 came the Unified Computing System, consolidating compute, network, storage access and virtualization.  Cable quantities plummeted.  Virtual machines per device increased.  Cisco IT now uses UCS to provision Data Center resources to clients in minutes. My clever, elegant solution has become obsolete.  UCS uses so few cables that the substations are superfluous.  Using them just occupies extra floor space and adds cost.  Even with pre-patched substations, no conventional physical deployment can be provisioned as quickly.

 It’s hard to let go of what worked well in the past.  UCS has arrived in a big way, though, and is winning more converts all the time.  Cisco is now third in the worldwide x86 blade server market according to the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker, May 2011.  I can only imagine how prevalent UCS will be next year.

 If you haven’t installed UCS in your server environment yet, can I interest you in some gently used networking cabinets and patch cords?  They served me well but I don’t need them anymore. 

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10 Comments.


  1. That’s funny. Good Humor.

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  2. Saw this on Linkedin and posted it onwards..good story. Nice way to get people to your blog

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  3. Biswajit Jena

    Really funny. I saw it in linked in and browsed to this page. Awesome.

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  4. Very clever hook Douglas! I was prepared to argue for the best compute solution on the market…you validated one of the DC teams quick wins:)

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  5. Douglas Alger
    Douglas Alger

    Thanks everyone for the kind words.

    I regularly host Data Center tours at Cisco headquarters and during the walkthroughs I proudly show the network substations in our legacy spaces and talk at length about how they helped us effectively manage our cabling infrastructure.

    I then somewhat ruefully explain that they’re now obsolete thanks to UCS. After years of watching the latest and greatest server models put more pressure on Data Center physical infrastructure (greater power consumption, greater heat density, more cabling), it’s refreshing to have UCS arrive and do the opposite.

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  6. What a kick! You had me hooked at “Curse You”, and I had to read on…Thanks for the laughs!

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  7. Catchy title, and a unique way to draw readers to your blog. Excellent work!

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  8. Good point.. I’ll stick with Avaya and Microsoft Unified Messaging.

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  9. Welcome to 2005, Cisco. Good humor here, but a real curse is warranted at UCS for causing HP to pull its servers from the Cisco MCS series. I really love chosing a platform for my customers that is EoS one month after it’s released.

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  10. Maarten Plesman

    I have never before read any article on linkedIn. but somehow this showed at the top of my log in screen in LinkedIn (well done by them i guess) and the ‘Curse You’ proved irresistable. well done

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