Why data centres won’t always be where the action is

Cisco’s recent launch of UCS Mini put the spotlight on what it calls ‘Internet of Everything. Get your expectations in check

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Ciso UCS Mini

It’s official: the Internet of Things (IOT) has reached the top of the tech trend hype cycle.

IOT is now sitting atop what Gartner calls the Peak of Inflated Expectations, usurping big data as the technology now generating the most hype. With all this buzz around IOT, it was nice to see Cisco drive some practical stakes into the ground to underpin the whole IOT discussion last week.

Sure, Cisco held a global webcast to unveil its fourth generation of Unified Communication System (UCS) servers, including one dubbed UCS Mini for the SMB market. But the real star of the show was IOT, which Cisco still calls the Internet of Everything (IOE). Cisco used the event as an opportunity to try to rebrand itself from a hardware maker into an IOE enabler.

“We’re not just building new servers. We’re creating a new computing platform for the Internet of Everything,” Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior declared at the New York City event.

Basically, Cisco is touting UCS as the linchpin of its entire IOE strategy.

“There’s more and more computing happening today outside the data centre,” said Satinder Sethi, Cisco’s VP of engineering for UCS and data centre solutions. Cisco’s new UCS servers will enable “what’s referred to as edgescale computing to address those needs,” he said.

In a nutshell, IOE means huge amounts of data will be collected from millions of sensors embedded almost anywhere. Businesses will need a way to receive, analyze, store and transmit those gobs of IOE data in a way that’s relevant, efficient and cost effective. Cisco is betting that its new UCS servers can provide this crucial piece of the IOE puzzle.

“It’s very optimized for customers in the remote branch office or in the field,” Sethi said of the new UCS product line.

He gave an example using the industry vertical of retail. He explained how the latest UCS servers can help retailers manage data from several sources (i.e., POS trends, in-store traffic patterns) across multiple locations.

“The data is exploding in these stores,” said Sethi. “(Retailers) have to spend up to $2,000 for every single upgrade they have to do on remote office branch infrastructure … Across 400 of their retail stores, that adds up to over $1 million they have to spend for just a simple infrastructure upgrade.”

Cisco says the new UCS servers pack more computing power into a simplified, centralized design that uses fewer cables, devours less energy and cuts capex by up to 29 per cent.

In a post-event interview, Cisco Canada’s Damian Serjeant told me Cisco already has 1,700 UCS customers here in Canada, mostly in financial services, oil and gas.  But the new “UCS Mini opens the door for us to go after a (SMB) market” that’s a lot bigger in Canada vs. the U.S., added Serjeant, Cisco Canada’s GM of data centre technologies.

Cisco says Canadian customers already tapping into its technology for IOE purposes include B.C. Hydro, Bombardier, Dundee Precious Metals and George Brown College. Cisco is also building one of its four global IOE Innovation Centres in Toronto.

At its NYC event, however, Cisco did manage to do something pretty rare: translate the hype around IOE into a business related conversation that’s useful for network administrators in the real world.


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