Back in 2009, there was a lot of speculation about Cisco entering the data center server market with a new effort codenamed Project California. The California server was officially revealed in March of 2009 as the Unified Computing System (UCS).
Now, just two and half years later, Cisco is claiming a major milestone: They now have 10,000 customers running UCS servers and the product portfolio is generating an annual run rate of $1.1 billion in revenues for the company. On top of that, Cisco has gone from zero to holding down the No. 3 spot globally, ahead of Dell but behind HP and IBM.
The UCS integrates server with networking technology to help deliver an integrated platform that delivers better scale and performance. The platform initially began with the b-series blade servers and then expanded with the c-series rack mounted servers. Todd Brannon, product marketing manager, told InternetNews.com that Cisco is currently selling more of the b-series blade servers than the c-series. That said, he noted that in 2011, Cisco fully integrated the c-series into the UCS Manager environment, which makes it easier for data center administrators to manage both c and b series devices. As such, c-series sales are picking up now.
In terms of customer mix, Brannon noted that nearly all UCS customers were already existing Cisco customers. "With the footprint that Cisco has in switching, it's nearly impossible to find a server customer that doesn't have a Cisco switch somewhere in their environment."
While Cisco has enjoyed success with the UCS, there have been some deployment challenges. Among them is many IT shops there are typically silos of domain experience. With UCS, Cisco is melding the network with the server and that represents a shift to the typical traditional blade server deployment.
"UCS has one management environment that touches multiple domains," Brannon said. "So a lot of customers are adapting to this world of converging technologies and unified infrastructure."
Because of this, Cisco has done a lot of work to make sure that UCS is integrated with all of the major systems management platform including IBM Tivoli, BMC, CA and HP. Moving forward, Cisco's UCS is set for a platform refresh this spring; aligned with an upcoming Intel chip release.