ServersCisco Edging Into Virtualization With Blades

Cisco Edging Into Virtualization With Blades

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Cisco Systems will introduce “Project California,” a blade system specially tuned for
virtualized environments, at an event in San Francisco on March 16, has learned.

A March even will spotlight Cisco’s entry into the virtualization market and serve notice to HP.

The news comes as talk surfaces around Cisco’s other strategies to ramp up its
virtualization portfolio: namely, through
an acquisition of VMware
or its parent, EMC. So far, those talks never moved beyond
an initial phase, although industry observers and Wall Street continue to watch for signs
of renewed discussions among the three.

For the time being, however, Cisco’s efforts in virtualization focus primarily on the
launch of its new blade system. According to a source familiar with the products, the
blades will be based on Intel’s Core i7 processors and come with up to 192GB of memory,
well above the maximum capacity of 128GB in today’s blades. Intel recently announced it
would begin shipping Core i7 Xeon processors, codenamed Nehalem-EP, as part of its Xeon
5000 series.

The blades include a PCI-Express connection, allowing them to connect to Cisco’s
high-speed Unified Fabric architecture. These connections also give the blades very fast
Ethernet access to both the network and storage devices and eliminate the need for a
storage-area network (SAN). Instead, the blades would talk directly to the storage

The blade servers are believed to come with Cisco’s Nexus 5000 switches embedded
in the chassis, which support the Unified Fabric and is built to be virtualization-ready.
The servers will also feature tight integration with and support for VMware software.

This would put computing and networking power all in a single box. “It’s more of
making the computer part of the network, thus Unified Computing,” said the source,
turning Sun Microsystems’s infamous “The network is the computer” slogan on its ear.

The term “Unified Computing” was first floated by Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior in a
January blog
, where she described it as “the advancement toward the next generation data
center that links all resources together in a common architecture to reduce the barrier
to entry for data center virtualization.

“In other words, the compute and storage platform is architecturally ‘unified’ with
the network and the virtualization platform,” she added.

A spokesperson for Cisco declined to comment on the story.

Next page: Built for virtualization

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