Cisco Expands Unified Computing to Carriers

Unified computing isn’t just for enterprises — it’s for carriers, too. Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) today expanded its Unified Computing System (UCS) effort into what it calls Unified Service Delivery, enabling service providers to deliver applications over their network infrastructures.

The Unified Service Delivery solution includes routing, switching and server elements to enable carriers to deliver applications to end users. The new architecture includes enhancements to Cisco’s biggest routing platform, the carrier-class CRS-1, in combination with the Nexus 7000 switching platform and the UCS 5100 blade server. The Unified Service Delivery setup could enable a carrier to have its own cloud services deployment as well as optimized video and voice service delivery.

“The objective of the solution is to enable service providers to transform service delivery today and also to put in place the building blocks for cloud services,” Simon Aspinall, senior director of service provider marketing at Cisco, told

The UCS is Cisco’s blade server platform that formally debuted in March. A key element of the UCS is its virtualization capabilities, which enable hundreds of virtual servers to be created and deployed. The UCS works in tandem with the Nexus 7000 for switching, but the routing component for carrier-class deployments is a new element in Cisco’s Unified Service Delivery offering.

“There is new hardware for the CRS-1 specifically designed around tailoring it for interconnecting with the datacenter,” Aspinall said. “There is a new forwarding processor that brings down some of the connection costs for the CRS-1 to make it better-suited for small and medium-sized datacenters as well as providing more significant headroom to meet increased demand and capacities.”

The USD solutions also pair the virtualization capabilities of the Nexus 7000 with some of the routing capabilities of the CRS-1. Aspinall explained that the Nexus includes the capability for virtual device contexts (VDC), which allows a physical switch to logically be carved into logical switches with complete isolation and security. At the same time, the CRS-1 offers the capability to deliver Secure Domain Routing (SDRs), enabling routing isolation.

“VDC and SDR combine together and give the ability to separate lines of business, types of service or even customers into entirely logically partitioned elements,” Aspinall said. “This really pairs up some of the capabilities of the Nexus with the CRS-1 to give more of a secure, virtual, end-to-end experience.”

Cloud carriers

With the ability to deliver application at scale over network infrastructures, Cisco is aiming to enable carriers to compete with the cloud vendors.

“We believe this will give service provides a strong competitive base to compete with the major cloud providers, like Amazon and Google,” Aspinall said. “The service providers could offer competing services and differentiate themselves through quality of the service delivery.”

Aspinall added that service providers using Unified Service Delivery systems will have the ability to mix different types of services and scale them up or down as needed, since the application servers are all virtualized.

Since the servers are virtualized, there are also operational, management and capital expense benefits for carriers, according to Aspinall. He claimed that with the Unified Service Delivery System, savings of up to a 30 percent on capital expenditures and 20 percent on operational expenditures can be achieved compared to similarly sized deployments elsewhere. Additionally, he said that Cisco expects that the new system will also enable carriers to launch new services faster.

Among the initial uses for the Unified Service Delivery system are voice and video application delivery. In one voice scenario with five customers, each with 60,000 handsets, Aspinall noted that a typical hosted deployment would require five racks, 100 servers, 600 cables and five operations people. In contrast, with Unified Service Delivery, that same deployment would involve two racks, 50 blades, 60 cables and a pair of operations people.

Moving forward, Aspinall said that Cisco has a broad roadmap for the Unified Service Delivery system and it is planning on coming out with some additional specific use cases and services over the course of this year. He did not elaborate, however.

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