Data Centers

Cisco blade servers: Mix, match, or mash?

The network equipment veteran is stepping into the server market. How will this impact the datacenter? IT pro Rick Vanover shares thoughts on this important announcement.

Cisco Systems has announced the Unified Computing System series of servers to round out their datacenter portfolio. This is an important announcement for many organizations, and I want to highlight some points related to this announcement for its relevance to the infrastructure side of the network administrator. Above everything, there are two main things that this equipment will do: Unify connectivity and be a cross-category virtualization solution. If you have been paying attention to the direction of the Cisco’s Nexus series, including the 1000V virtual switch, you will see that an integration of products and connectivity is a clear direction.

This really makes sense, as Cisco has for many years engaged in OEM agreements to rebrand servers for specific roles. Examples include the telephone equipment solutions using HP ProLiant servers and the IronPort e-mail gateway system using Dell PowerEdge servers. Cisco isn’t announcing that these products will be transitioning to the Unified Computing System (UCS), however.

The key facts that Cisco is driving home with this solution is that multiple layers of virtualization will be used as well as an interconnectedness that is unique to the server space for computing, network, storage, and other datacenter components. My concern with this platform is that in most companies (outside of the provider space), it is always a challenge for a company to ugprade all the infrastructure components at once. Specifically, how frequently do your server administrators, network administrators, and storage administrators go through full end-to-end upgrades at once? So, with this UCS line of equipment, a scenario will exist where it may not make sense to jump to this platform as other components, especially servers running VMware software, are newer, why replace them?

My opinion gravitates toward this being a difficult up-front migration. The benefits are clear when integrating the server, network, virtualization, and storage transports. My concern is that there would be a tremendous up-front perimeter infrastructure migration that may make it difficult for many organizations to realize the benefits of the consolidated computing environment. Please share your comments below.

About

Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

5 comments
sdhill
sdhill

Cisco has had a very difficult time integrating all their products under a unified enterprise management system. They need to stay focused on the network (voice & data). Personally, I think their foray into blade servers will be the same as Dell the first time...DOA in 2 years.

Zevel
Zevel

Technically, I work for a small business. We have about 100 employees, annual sales figures in the seven-digit range, and only about 15 PCs in our company. We have 50 terminals for most of the staff. We run off of 2 domain controllers, two database servers(one's a backup), and two file/app servers. We'll be doing a full upgrade in about 18-24 months, but this would be too much for us. We would need a few regular 1u and 2u servers. Blade would be nice, but it's not like we have a need or a use for it.

mike_patburgess
mike_patburgess

Do not listen to the guy that tells you that you need blades to run your infrastructure. Blade systems will cause you no end of grief. Now if you want to virtualize a bunch of stuff on a few servers, that's not a big deal but you still have to have the expertise in house to manage the stuff. Just my two cents from experience.

Dominick-Murphy
Dominick-Murphy

So an HP C3000 enclosure, 3/4 Blades, 1/2 Storage Blades, VMWare Infrastructure 3 with VCenter You then have a self contained, fully resilient, eco friendly, ROI friendly, support friendly infrastructure running a stable environment with full growth capability and expansion where and if needed. You are the ideal candidate for blades :-)