As Cisco moves into the data center, it's going down a different path from some of the bellwethers of large-scale computing. UCS servers are designed to fit into modules that can be combined to form a very large data center. Through fabric interconnects and overarching management software, Cisco can make those modules manageable with a single set of policies, Yen says. Cisco's approach is different from that used by public-cloud giants such as Google and Amazon, which expand a single-layer architecture to a massive scale. But for most enterprises, Cisco's approach is better for manageability and incremental growth, Yen says.
Cisco's aggressive approach to the market helped to sell one CIO on UCS as a long-term bet. "They pointed at the big guys and said, 'We're coming at you,'" says George Reed, CIO at travel insurance company Seven Corners. UCS blades replaced a data center full of desktop servers at Seven Corners, where they've helped the company calculate the risk of new types of insurance policies more quickly, Reed says. And he says Cisco's support is either better or cheaper than support from the other big server makers.