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.