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Cisco Scores First UCS Win

Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) has landed the first major customer win for its Unified Computing System (UCS) blade computer offerings, a civil construction firm that was able to consolidate five datacenters into one with the new system.

Tutor Perini does jobs such as airport construction and building casinos in Las Vegas. It had five datacenters scattered around the country using a mish-mash of computing systems, from single, stand-alone servers to some older blades.

Its networking equipment was already mostly Cisco, so that familiarity assured Tutor Perini that Cisco, a newcomer to the blade server computing world, had a top-flight product.

"It did give us a little pause because it's a brand new tech they are rolling out, but this isn't a startup company. Everyone on my team has over a decade of experience with Cisco products, so we felt pretty comfortable they would meet all our needs," James McGibney, datacenter lead for Tutor Perini, told InternetNews.com.

That's also why Tutor Perini was willing to build almost all of its datacenter on one vendor product. "We liked having one source for everything. We like that fact it's a one-stop shop. Some critics have said you're putting all your eggs in one basket, but we're pretty comfortable with who has that basket," said McGibney.

Tutor Perini built a new datacenter with four chassis, 22 server blades, and two Cisco 6120 Fabric Interconnects. The system connects to 83 terabytes of data in an Ethernet environment. The company makes heavy use of thin clients and virtualization with VMware (NYSE: VMW) to support the clients.

With the UCS, Tutor Perini will be able to deploy four times as many virtual machines per VMware ESX host as it could in its previous environment. At the same time, it has capacity for 30 percent growth over the next three years despite cutting its datacenter facilities down.

The consolidation is not yet complete. McGibney said that only three of the five datacenters have been shut down, so there is more consolidation to be done. That said, so far Tutor Perini has reduced the hardware footprint by 60 percent. Power consumption has been reduced by 38 percent so far.

Then there's the advantage of having an all-Cisco shop. McGibney said he has one Cisco console to manage all of his devices from one console, which was very appealing to Tutor Perini.

"It's a one-stop interface, so we're able to view things from the 10,000-foot level to every server and every blade. We haven't had that many problems, which is amazing, especially since this is a brand-new technology. If it's something, it's usually minor, like a fan failing. But there just haven't been that many problems with it," he said.

Being the first UCS deployment had its pluses, too. Cisco made a full-court press to get its first UCS customer up and running with as little disruption as possible. Tutor Perini is not finished with the migration, so it doesn't have a final performance measure. So far, the thin client performance has gone up at least 20 percent with the more powerful server systems.

Likewise, it doesn't know how much savings it will enjoy, but just going from five datacenters to one will yield inevitable savings. Still, McGibney is already satisfied with the results. "We're happy with overall migration because we are seeing overall savings, which is what you hope to achieve when you start reducing server counts," he said.