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Another reason for Cisco to pound its chest

UCS blade server system reaches 10,000 customers

Never one to pass up an opportunity to toot its own horn, Cisco is celebrating a milestone... and not in its traditional stronghold of switching and routing. In just over two years, Cisco has landed over 10,000 customers for its Unified Computing System (UCS) blade server platform, the controversial product that alienated longtime partners HP and IBM.

Not bad for a router company that entered the data center server business two years ago amid much skepticism of its chances for success. Especially with stalwarts like HP, IBM, Dell and Sun - now Oracle - entrenched in data centers for decades.

And now all competing with their ex-partner, the new kid on the block - or rack.

UCS combines X86 blade or rack mount servers with virtualization, switching and storage access to offer a "unified computing" platform for consolidating data center functionality and reducing footprint and cabling, and cost. Cisco says it uses one-half the components and requires less cabling and power/cooling than legacy servers. Cisco also says a unified computing and virtualization strategy in the data center - like that proposed by UCS - can save over 30 billion kilowatt hours of energy per year.

Two of the key attributes of UCS are extended memory and service profiles. Extended memory, a patented Cisco development, is designed to support applications with large data sets and allow servers to support more virtual machines. Service profiles are defined per VM and stay with the VM as it moves, which helps automate provisioning of IT services per VM or application from days to minutes, Cisco says.

UCS began shipping in July 2009 and is now on an annualized order run rate of $1.1 billion, Cisco says. The system set 54 "world records" in industry performance benchmarks, the company claims, and received a dozen industry awards for innovation. It also captured the No. 3 market share spot in X86 blade servers worldwide in Q1, 2011, and No. 2 in the US, according to IDC.

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