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Cisco UCS vs. IBM Flex System: Complexity and Cost Comparison

June 25, 2013 - 3 Comments

Complexity and Cost Comparison: Cisco UCS vs. IBM Flex System is report recently published by Principled Technologies.

They evaluated both the technologies and costs of each solution and found a UCS solution is both less expensive to deploy and less complex to manage than an IBM Flex System.

Off all the ways Principled Technologies shows how UCS is a superior solution, I wanted to touch on just one: highly available and scalable management. A UCS management domain consists of a pair of Fabric Interconnects and supports up to 160 blade and/or rack servers. In contrast, IBM is limited to 54 blade servers plus a non-redundant Flex System Manager node. Quoting from the paper:

Because IBM Flex System Manager nodes do not failover automatically like the Cisco UCS solution, administrators must manually connect to a backup node and bring it online. Each target system has an OS agent that remains registered to the original FSM node and does not recognize the new FSM. Admins must manually unregister each of these agents from the failed node and then register the new FSM node. [page 7]

Read the full report to learn the many additional ways which UCS is shown to be superior solution and why Cisco has leapt ahead of IBM and is now the #2 blade server vendor worldwide1


Would like to learn more about how Cisco is changing the economics of the datacenter, I would encourage you to review this presentation on SlideShare  or my previous series of blog posts, Yes, Cisco UCS servers are that good.

  1. Source:  IDC Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker, Q1 2013 Revenue Share, May 2013

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  1. Showing pricing is always a problematical activity. Perhaps a little clarity on why 55% vs. 5%.

    First IBM. Street pricing used here was 5% off retail price – online posted pricing.

    Now Cisco. The 55% off is NOT off “retail”. It is off Cisco GPL (global price list). Approx 47% off GPL = Cisco MSRP – Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price. Other folks have used Cisco GPL to “illustrate” that Cisco UCS is too expensive. That is the sad truth not a fair or transparent comparison.

    5% off IBM retail and 55% off Cisco GPL are really extremely close pricing comparisons.

    If you want retail to retail comparisons then you have undiscounted online pricing for other server vendors and ~47% off Cisco GPL. That is a fair comparison.

    So how do you do that? We just recently stood up a Build To Order (BTO) section on our Build & Price portal ( Choose blade or rack servers, pick a model and check out the Build To Order tab.

  2. Erica,

    Please see Appendix A. Neither Cisco nor IBM provided the pricing used in the report. They came from a third party and were validated by reseller quotes. They are street prices.

    Cisco fully stands behind the results.


  3. Excitedly, I showed this to my boss.

    Two days later he threw it back into my face after he found out that your cost comparisons were totally bogus — you used 55% off retail prices for the Cisco gear and only 5% off retail for the IBM stuff.

    I was embarassed. I hope you will correct this.