Cisco Planning New Westmere-Based x86 Servers

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted Mar 18, 2010


Cisco is joining the string of technology vendors that will be adopting Intel's new Xeon 5600 server chips. A new series of Cisco's x86 servers said to provide double-digit performance gains will be formally announced in the coming weeks.

Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) plans to include the new Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) x86 server chips, codenamed "Westmere," in the next version of its Unified Computing System (UCS), which will be given the M2 designation.

The new Westmere chips will provide the UCS M2 with multiple performance gains, ranging as high as 42 percent for virtualization performance, over the previous M1. While Cisco is already touting the performance gains of the Westmere-powered UCS M2, it has yet to formally announce the new products. Cisco first announced UCS a year ago, and company executives told InternetNews.com this week that the plan is for an official launch of the new M2s sometime in the coming weeks.

"We haven't announced availability yet -- we're sort of doing things a bit differently as we're planning on making a series of announcements," Daniel Bounds, a product marketing manager at Cisco, told InternetNews.com. "Ultimately, though, UCS is about more than just the compute node. We wanted to be there with Intel in announcing Westmere, but what we haven't done yet is a larger announcement which will come in the coming weeks at which point we'll announce availability, pricing and all of the specific product details."

Bounds was unable to talk about the migration process for current Cisco UCS owners from the M1 to the M2 series, though he said that would be part of the future announcement. He stressed that Cisco is committed to helping current customers preserve their existing IT investments, and will try to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Since the introduction of the UCS a year ago, Cisco has gained more than 400 customers for the platform.

Intel announced its new Westmere Xeon 5600 processors this week as the successor to the Nehalem processors, which powered the first generation of Cisco's UCS. The Xeon 5600 is set to offer substantial performance gains over its predecessors. Both Dell and SGI have also already announced that they'll be adopting the new Xeon 5600s for upcoming servers.

"The key thing for us is going from eight cores within the system to 12, which actually gives us the power we need to see the significant advantages of our extended memory technology," Bounds said.

Cisco's extended memory technology on the UCS enables the server to scale to up to 384 GB of system memory. The new Westmere-powered UCS M2 scored a 42 percent improvement over its predecessor on the VMmark, the benchmark for virtualization vendor VMware.

"We're really punctuating the fact that the extended memory technology in virtualized environments removes an important bottleneck in trying to achieve the maximum consolidation ratios as well as performance," Bounds said.

While the Westmere chips provide more power to the UCS M2, Bounds noted that operating system and application tuning also has an impact. Cisco will have more details about the application-tuning improvements when the M2 is formally announced.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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