The rise of Cisco’s UCS

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Mention Cisco and most people immediately think of all things network, which is understandable as they are still market leaders in that space. However how many would naturally say that they’re a company which provides stateless computer servers? Probably not the same number that reflects the facts.

By 2015, IDC stated that Cisco, with its UCS offering, had become the Number one x86 blade providers in North America overtaking and probably upsetting a large number of competitors. Their market share had grown to over $3 billion in just 6 years.

The market has undoubtedly embraced UCS but you’ve got to ask the question why.

At a high level, it seems fairly straight forward; the UCS provides a blade chassis, the blades themselves and a network-based fabric interconnect. It is, on the face of it, a simple construct of a unified network, industry-standard compute and universal storage adaptors.

But what is remarkably clever is that Cisco has effectively redefined server architecture. They have created a stateless compute offering that virtualises individual server identities and abstracts them into a software management layer. This is also integrated with their own network technologies. In other words, the intelligence of each blade sits within an abstracted layer of software.

And here comes the science bit. UCS also makes the server hardware transparent to the operating systems and applications running on it. By using what they term service profiles, UCS allows administrators to easily move MAC and IP addresses, UUID, firmware and even server BIOs from one server to another.

In essence, Cisco has removed many components of a typical blade to deliver a radically simplified server architecture that is easy to manage and run.

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