IBM and Cisco Team Up on Server VersaStack

by Sean Michael Kerner

 With the VCE relationship in the rear-view mirror, Cisco looks forward with IBM's storage.

Cisco is partnering with IBM for storage as part of new reference architecture designs for the Cisco UCS server platform. The new solution is called the VersaStack and includes the IBM Storwize V7000 as the storage system for a UCS deployment.

"IBM has had a long standing relationship with Cisco," Satinder Sethi, Vice President, Data Center Solutions at Cisco, told ServerWatch. Cisco UCS Servers"VersaStack is a converged infrastructure solution that is designed to address the growing needs of cloud, Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT)."

Sethi explained that in terms of hardware, the VersaStack includes a Nexus 9000 switch, a UCS server system and the IBM Storwize 7000. The reference architecture also includes Cisco UCS Director for service orchestration.

The entire solution has been initially tested for the deployment of virtual infrastructure using VMware's ESX and is ready for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) deployments as well. Moving forward, the plan is to enable the VersaStack for OpenStack as well.

From a go-to-market perspective, Sethi said that the VersaStack is a "meet in the middle" channel program.

"Our partners will be able to take our validated design reference architecture guide and then build a solution for the end customer using the right components," Sethi said. "There is significant overlap between Cisco and IBM channel partners, so that makes it easier too."

There is a common support model for the VersaStack that enables a customer to get support from either IBM or Cisco.

Data Center Footprint Dependent on Deployment Needs

The actual data center footprint for a VersaStack will depend on what an organization wants to deploy. Sethi said that a large multi-rack deployment is possible as part of the VeraStack, scaling to meet the required storage and compute needs.

From a storage interconnect perspective, the UCS-unified fabric is the connection point to the IBM Storwize. Sethi explained that there is a fabric interconnect for NAS and iSCSI storage that will go through the network switch. For Fiber Channel, storage is connected through a Cisco MDS SAN switch.

"The Fabric interconnect has outbound Fiber Channel ports that connect directly into an MDS switch," Sethi said. "So there is no additional latency there."

From a competitive standpoint, there are multiple storage options that can be paired with a Cisco UCS, including Cisco's own Invicta storage. Cisco also has recently reduced its participation in the VCE joint venture, which included EMC storage along with UCS.

"The VersaStack was largely driven by customers that told us they wanted the integration of UCS and Storwize," Sethi said.

Laura Guio, Vice President, Business Line Executive Storage Systems at IBM, told ServerWatch that Storwize provides a number of unique differentiated virtualization storage options for Cisco UCS customers.

"The real-time compression capability of Storwize is also a differentiator and we've seen business partners ask for that in connection with UCS," Guio said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at ServerWatch and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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This article was originally published on Thursday Dec 4th 2014
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