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Cisco brings server virtualization to the branch office

Joel Snyder | Feb. 26, 2013
E140D, a mid-range blade, is a speedy, well-designed, easy to manage and good performing server

There is one more critical issue to consider: price. Simply put, the cost of the Cisco UCS Express blades is not competitive with offerings from pure-play server vendors. The low-end E140S UCS Express blade with two 1TB disk drives and 8GB of memory has a list price of about $6,000. The equivalent rack-mount server from Dell, an R210, with similar disk and memory, runs about $1,500.

At the high end, the difference is still extreme. An E160D UCS Express blade with two 10K RPM 900GB SAS drives has a list price of about $10,000, while the R320 server from Dell similarly configured is about $3,500.

Even with a discount of 50% off of Cisco's list price, which is not uncommon for large Cisco customers, the UCS Express blades are still twice as expensive as stand-alone servers. For one office or two the difference is minor, but if you're thinking of rolling these out to 100 offices or more, the cost difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars becomes a significant factor.

So, why would anyone pay twice as much for a server? Cisco offered a lot of reasons that make sense (and some that didn't). For example, if you're in a space-constrained environment, stashing the server in the router might be worth the extra money. A single equipment vendor makes things simpler for upgrades; one set of power supplies makes for greater power and air-conditioning efficiency, saving some money or forestalling an HVAC upgrade.

What if you don't care about any of these things, and are just going through a normal upgrade path, swapping out routers and servers in remote branches? Does the UCS Express value proposition justify paying twice as much for the same capabilities? It's not an obvious slam-dunk. Certainly, some will find the convenience of a single-source solution, small form factor and tight integration into the ISR a compelling argument.

But some network and system managers might chafe at the price differential, as well as the lack of flexibility and the vendor lock-in that UCS Express blades bring.


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