If Westcon Group needs success stories to reference when customers ask about Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) deployments, it won't have to look very far.
Westcon was among the first distributors in the U.S. to begin shipments of Cisco UCS products last fall, but starting in November 2009, it also became one of the first U.S. enterprises to adopt UCS full-on as a customer.
As of July 2010, Westcon's migration is almost complete. According to the distributor, it's consolidated some 175 physical servers into 24 Cisco UCS B-series blades, and saved Westcon some $1.1 million in operational savings already.
When its data center upgrade plans began, however, Cisco's UCS wasn't even public knowledge, let alone an option for Westcon, said CIO and CTO William Hurley.
Hurley joined the company in April 2008, and later that year, he and his team started evaluating Westcon's existing network and data center infrastructure to plan for an upgrade.
According to Hurley, the distributor was already virtualizing much of its application server environment, but during an analysis of its infrastructure needs, it determined that not only did its server and storage infrastructure need refreshing, but also that its upgrade would run into problems with power and storage capacity before long as result of those refreshes. Westcon further needed to duplicate its server and storage infrastructure efforts on two continents; it has production data centers in Elmsford, N.Y. and in Reading, U.K.
At the time, much of Westcon's data center infrastructure relied on HP blades. It was during the evaluation phase for HP and other competitive data center products, Hurley recalled, that Cisco first announced the UCS in March 2009, and the conversations between Westcon and Cisco began.
"I was talking about it with my head of infrastructure and said, well, what do you think, and I just kind of panicked because what we were talking about was new," Hurley described in a recent discussion with CRN. "So we spent a significant amount of time with Cisco trying to understand the product and what emerged was the idea of generating value -- a lot of value -- with virtualization. So Cisco let us beat up the equipment for a couple of weeks, and when they came back, we said, we've got to do this."
As a Cisco distributor, Westcon was admittedly able to gain access to UCS products -- at a discount -- and also learn a bit more about UCS fundamentals before most Cisco solution providers and customers. But Westcon's data center migration requirements were typical of most prospective UCS customers, Hurley said, even if its access to Cisco is not.
It was unquestionably the right choice for Westcon to deploy, Hurley contends.
"We went with UCS purely because we thought it was the best for the enterprise, and we could have just as easily gone to HP or anything else, regardless of what we distribute," he said. "I reached a point where I can look my CEO in the eye and say this [Cisco] may be our best customer, but what's best for the firm is to do it this way."
Next: Westcon's Deployment Challenges