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Cisco UCS Server Buying Guide

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted February 4, 2012


When Cisco came out with its Unified Compute System (UCS) blades a couple of years back, there was plenty of skepticism about how the company would do by venturing into the pastures new of the server landscape. Last month's announcement that the company passed the 10,000 customer milestone for UCS sales laid many of those doubts to rest.

With IDC rating blades as the fastest growing server segment during the next several years, this bodes well for Cisco's growing presence in the marketplace.

"We're hearing from customers who are reporting all-in savings in the range of 40 percent on the cost of computing," said Todd Brannon, senior manager, Data Center and Virtualization, Cisco. "The savings stem from a variety of sources: lower capex as the platform efficiently scales, reduced administrator time, density/power savings and reduced software licensing costs as more workload lands on fewer servers."

One customer told Brannon he could let his CTO take a Cisco blade straight out of the box, insert it into a chassis slot, and as the system identified and integrated the new resource into the available pool, they congratulated him on his first server deployment.

New Cisco UCS Blades

Since our last snapshot around two years ago, Cisco server blade releases have been largely in lock step with the roll-out of Intel Xeon processor roadmap. Two years ago, the company released the Cisco UCS B200 M1 and B250 M1 blades, which are based on the Intel Xeon processor 5500 series. In the past year, it introduced the Cisco UCS B200 M2 and B250 M2, both based on the Intel Xeon Processor 5600 series.

The UCS B200 blade server is a half-width, 2-socket blade server with up to 192 GB of memory. It can deliver substantial throughput and scalability.

The Cisco UCS B250 M2 Extended Memory Blade Server is aimed at maximizing performance and capacity for demanding virtualization and large dataset applications. It is a full-width, 2-socket blade server that supports up to 384 GB of memory.

In addition, the Cisco UCS B230 M2 and B440 M2 blade servers are based on the Intel Xeon processor E7 family. These two servers are follow-on models to earlier-released M1 versions that were based on the Intel Xeon Processor 7500 series

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The Cisco UCS B230 M2 Blade Server is a two-socket server supporting up to 20 cores and 512 GB of memory. The B230 M2 extends the capabilities of the Cisco Unified Computing System by delivering higher levels of performance, efficiency and reliability in a more compact, half-width form factor.

The UCS B440 M2 is a 4-socket blade that can support up to 40 cores and 512GB of memory. It is best for enterprise-class applications.

"We will continue to roll out blades targeted at both infrastructure and enterprise-class applications," said Brannon. "Last year, we delivered nine benchmarking world records at the launch of the Intel Xeon processor E7 family."

Cisco UCS Racks

Cisco offers more than just blades. It also provides a range of UCS rack servers. Much like it has done with blades, Cisco has transitioned the rackmount servers from M1 to M2 models to support the newest Intel Xeon Processor 5600 or E7 family.

The Cisco UCS C200 M2 and UCS B210 M2 servers are high-density, 2-socket rackmount servers built for production-level network infrastructure, web services, and mainstream data center, branch and remote-office applications. The Cisco UCS C250 M2 server is a high-performance, memory-intensive, 2-socket, 2-rack unit (RU) rackmount server designed for virtualization and large dataset workloads.

Two rackmount servers use the Intel Xeon processor E7 family. The Cisco UCS C260 M2 Rack-Mount Server is a high-density, 2-socket platform that offers compact performance for enterprise-critical applications. The C260 M2 server's maximum 1TB of memory and 16 drives make it good for memory-bound or disk-intensive applications.

The Cisco UCS C460 M2 Rack-Mount Server has enough processing power, memory and local storage to house mission-critical applications, as well as server consolidation of resource-intense workloads.

"Cisco UCS is a next-generation data center server platform that unites compute, network, storage access and virtualization into a cohesive system designed to outperform previous server architectures, increase operational agility and flexibility while potentially dramatically reducing overall data center costs," said Brannon. "The system is programmable using single point, model-based management to simplify and speed deployment of applications and services running in bare-metal, virtualized, and cloud-computing environments."

Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).

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