In the past, when I had to design a virtual infrastructure, I had a limited range of server hardware to pick from. Mainly HP and Dell or an occasional IBM server.

But since the beginning of this year I can not bypass Cisco. It is still a bit strange to some people when you mention Cisco with regards to server hardware but it’s a force we can’t ignore anymore.

When Cisco released their UCS server portfolio one and a half/two years ago, nobody thought they would storm the server market as they did. Certainly with their blade server solution they have a very appealing solution which can easily compete with HP, Dell and IBM blade solutions.

Personally I love to configure a Cisco UCS blade solution because it’s so freakin’ easy. One blade enclosure, one switch type, only two management entities and only seven different blade servers. This sounds a bit like a limited solution but trust me the possibilities are endless and performance is great.

December last year, VMware released version 2.0 of the VMmark 2.0 benchmark. VMmark 1.0 was focusing on the performance of a single virtualization host, the 2.0 version is focusing on measuring the performance of a whole virtual data center. Cisco was the first manufacturer which published their scores with the new VMmark 2.0, with a score of 6.51 at 6 tiles.

Yesterday Cisco published some new scores and the performance is really challenging the competition with top scores and 9 world records!

With the Cisco UCS C460 M2 High-Performance rack-mount server, equipped with the new Intel Xeon E7 processor, they get a 16.68 @ 18 tiles score running VMmark 2.0.

Cisco has one small shortcoming though, it has the reputation to be (too) expensive. But this is a reputation issue only (!), when I compare Cisco UCS blade solutions with similar blade solutions from the competition, the Cisco solution is often cheaper.

In my limited opinion, this is the only thing holding Cisco back in the server market. However, when this changes and Cisco’s reputation is no longer associated with ‘expensive’, I think they will give the competition a real scare (when they aren’t scared already).

So, Cisco is no longer a new and upcoming player in the server market, it’s a player which we can no longer ignore.