Intel did more than just introduce a faster server processor today with the introduction of the Xeon 5500; it enabled a greater level of differentiation to its server and storage vendor partners that ultimately will result in a broader set of choices and better ones for enterprise infrastructure & operations professionals. While the performance improvements of the 5500 in themselves are impressive, there is just as much to like in the new memory and I/O architectures and power efficiency. The new memory architecture triples bandwidth over the 5400 and brings back DDR3 allowing up to 18 DIMMs per CPU. This lets customers reach much higher memory configurations at a lower cost. While you have to add memory three DIMMs at a time, 36 GBs per socket is now achievable with low cost 2GB DIMMs. This is a significant boon to server virtualization where memory is typically the first resource to be fully utilized. Cisco is taking this capacity even higher in its UCS blade servers.
A big blue cloud overshadowed Sun’s announcement today unveiling their Open Cloud Computing platform. Media was a buzz today at rumors of a possible acquisition of Sun Microsystems by IBM. Still a rumor at this point, the story brings up many questions about how feasible this acquisition really is and if it makes sense from IBM’s perspective as well as Sun’s.
After months of rumors, Cisco officially entered the server business this morning with a modular system it calls the "Unified Computing System" (UCS). This blade server system goes one step beyond its predecessors by starting from a unified network foundation on ten gigabit per second Ethernet (10 GbE) that delivers a true wire-once architecture. We believe this is the next step in blade server technology as it collapses a lot of components in these systems -- unified network, direct path I/O from the VM through to the chip, to the network, and unique system optimization for virtual workloads.
However, no one is clamoring for another server vendor, so despite the strong showing of partners at this launch, Cisco will have to win over enterprise server buyers who up to this point have had no relationship with the company. We think UCS will succeed mostly in green field deployments inside of companies who have a strong strategic partnership with Cisco. As they realize the gains promised, others will start to take them seriously.
As Cisco has affected the telephony market with its VoIP push, so too could they have the same affect on the server market over time, but it would be a mistake to discount HP and IBM who see this same vision and arguably are better positioned to take their strategic partner enterprise clients there.