Cisco announced its new Unified Computing System initiative Monday, boasting that their new systems will combine computing, storage, virtualization, and networking.

Cisco will soon begin selling blade servers, but assuming the company delivers everything it promised Monday, the fact that it's competing with companies like HP in that area is only part of the news. The initiative aims to make servers easier to deploy and manage, in large part through new networking ideas.

Cisco's "wire once" capabilities combine what are usually separate networks for LAN, SAN, and computing into a single low-latency 10 Gbps network. The Unified Computing System can use technology like SAN, NAS, iSCSI, Ethernet, Fibre Channel, and Fibre Channel over Ethernet to access storage, making storage simpler. The system should also greatly reduce i/o bottlenecks.

This diagram, an inset from a slide presented by Cisco Monday, shows the new hardware.

The other side of Cisco's Unified Computing is extensive use and support of virtualization. (Check out this article for more on VMware's involvement with the initiative.) Cisco promised seamless movement of servers physically and virtually without service interruption.

The hardware in the new Cisco blade systems is cutting edge but sticks mostly to standards. They'll use x86 processors, the new Nehalem-based Xeon processors. They'll also, as announced by Microsoft, run Windows Server OSs. Cisco officials said the systems will offer lower power consumption and need less cooling than existing systems.

Cisco's Unified Computing page offers plenty of information for anyone wanting to learn more.

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