Cisco's one-stop shop for cloud computing equipment

The various components of the Cisco Unified Computing System

Networking giant Cisco has updated its Unified Computing System for companies looking to equip and enhance their datacentres to deliver cloud computing services.

Cisco believes its Unified Computing System (UCS), a key example of 'fabric computing' or a massive concentration of infrastructure such as servers, storage and high speed links, is perfect for companies building a platform for delivering cloud services. In terms of hardware, the UCS has several key components including a parent switch and remote line cards packaged as rack-mountable devices. This is then paired with a virtual interface card that supports 256 virtual PCI Express interfaces including Ethernet, Fibre Channel and Fibre Channel over Ethernet.

Cisco claims that this dense concentration of blade servers and switches results in not only faster applications performance, but more virtual interfaces packed into a single space and less latency too.

Customers can deploy any combination of operating systems and hypervisors they wish while everything is managed from the UCS Manager unified management interface which integrates with hypervisor systems such as VMWare vCloud Director and vSphere 5.0.

Naturally the UCS would be the perfect platform for the newly updated Wide Area Application Services Software (WAAS) now at version 4.4. Cisco claims this software is an example of context-aware application performance optimisation improving the performance of demanding applications while using as little bandwidth as possible. Soni Jiandani, the senior vice president of Cisco's Server Access and Virtualisation Technology Group, gave an example of virtualised remote desktops where the intelligent caching of screenscrapes improves the responsiveness of a usually very-laggy, network intensive application.

According to Lew Tucker, Cisco's CTO for cloud computing, the new UCS is perfect for a world of multiple clouds public, private and hybrid. Organisations in wildly differing fields, such as government, health care and financial services, can build customised clouds to deal with both the specific demands of their workplaces and different regulatory issues in different jurisdictions.