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Unified Computing: The Day After the Day After

- March 18, 2009 - 6 Comments

Now that the dust has settled and everyone has had a chance to digest the Unified Computing System announcements a bit, I see a couple of salient points–well, I see more, but only have time to blog about a couple of them right now.First and foremost, we have certainly move the bar for everyone. As pointed out in a SeekingAlpha post by Larry Dignan:

Other data center rivals will have to start answering questions about integration between functions, architecture and the potential savings. If anything just the buzz associated with Cisco’s move can dictate the conversation.

In the long run, I think this will drive the industry forward–as Doug pointed out recently, “we are certain over time we will not be alone in this market.” In the near term, however, I see a lot of talking points on why this really isn’t any different or really all that important.The second point is that the “S” in “UCS” stands for system, not server. The UCS is an integrated platform, built and designed to be operated as system, and this is where we believe the value is created for the customer. The ability to manage systematically and holistically is key to virtualization adoption and TCO reduction. Let’s look at another integrated system you are all familiar with: an automobile. If you push the accelerator, you go faster–its a simple model, you focus on what you want to accomplish not how to accomplish it. Now imagine a scenario where, to go faster, you had to turn one knob to increase output from the fuel pump, press a lever to increase air intake, turn another knob to adjust fuel/air mix, turn another knob to adjust spark timing and finally watch the tachometer and shift into the correct gear–oh, yeah, you also need to watch where you are going, steer, and be ready to jump on the brakes. Its a lot of work to accomplish a basic task, and as a result, you are less likely to change speed. Well, its precisely the situation we have in the data center today–operational complexity and manual intervention are an inhibitor to boarder virtualization and the cost an functional benefits it can deliver.Which brings me to the third point (OK, I lied) about these wild claims of vendor lock-in. This makes no sense to me–if you buy an HP BladeSystem, I assume you have no expectation to plugging a Dell blade into it–this is intuitive, so why is the Cisco UCS being held to a different standard? It is an integrated system. If you don’t want to buy the system, you are more than welcome to buy the Nexus 5000, Nexus 2000 and (eventually) Nexus 1000V separately and do your own integration. The related assertion is that the Cisco UCS will not work in a heterogenous environment. This is a completely misguided notion. There are a number of management models for the Cisco UCS to allow it integrate into both greenfield and existing environments–more on that in an upcoming post.

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  1. I don’t think Nik is saying UCS is “open” (despite the “open systems” moniker the industry sticks on x86 servers). He’s simply saying that UCS is no less proprietary than any other system. Certainly HP or IBM blades would not work inside of UCS.

  2. Omar,I'm curious as to your thoughts about why the name UCS which obviously can be confusing with UC? Are there plans to also integrate UC into the Unified Data Center concept, or UCS specifically?

  3. Drue is correct, I'm not saying that UCS is open"", just no more ""closed"" than any other blade architecture."

  4. Hi Mark,I don't think Nik is saying UCS is open"" (despite the ""open systems"" moniker the industry sticks on x86 servers). He's simply saying that UCS is no less proprietary than any other system. Certainly HP or IBM blades would not work inside of UCS. While Cisco has done a good job with making their management APIs ""public"" (so BMC can integrate) that, too, doesn't imply standard or instant interoperability.I'll say this though. It's a good start. Cisco did many, many things right with UCS. But the race in this market is won, in part, through longevity. Cisco has the capability, finance, technical prowess, and executive management to do well. Time...that's the test. Time."

  5. Fully agreed Nik. If anything, Cisco has been very proactive in developing UCS with open APIs and capability to hook to a wide range of mgmt systems, as well as tight integration with BMC. Given this is first release of the UCS solution, that is a strong indication of the strategy on making -- and keeping -- UCS as open and extensible.

  6. Have to agree on the proprietary tag, I wouldn't say that UCS is any more or less proprietary than any bladed server platform, all of the vendors maintain a walled garden around their blade systems with a small group of partners so Cisco isn't doing anything different there.