Cisco Pledges Cheaper On-Premise Storage Compared To AWS Cloud With New UCS S-Series Server

Cisco Systems aims to grab market share with the launch of a storage-optimized server in its Cisco Unified Computing System family designed to address the needs of data-intensive workloads. The company said its new UCS S3260 S-Series, unveiled at the Cisco Partner Summit Tuesday, can lower total cost of ownership by more than 50 percent compared storing active data in the Amazon Web Services public cloud.

"This demands its own [product] categorization. This is not a rack server by any means; it's totally modular," said Todd Brannon, director of product marketing at Cisco, San Jose, Calif. "The S-Series itself is a platform that can scale with speed that rivals the public cloud [and] can do it at half the cost."

"We're going to take share away from the traditional server architectures and the vendors there, and I categorize that as anybody else who sells a server is somebody we're going to take share from," said Brannon.

[Related: Collaboration Market Share: Cisco Leads, But Microsoft Right On Its Heels]

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The UCS S3260 is Cisco's first offering in its new S-Series aimed at delivering rapid scalability and cloud connectivity. It will enable organizations to handle the growth of unstructured data being created by the rise of Internet of Things, video, mobility and data analytics by allowing customers to access and analyze data in real time, according to Brannon.

The UCS S3260 is second-generation technology based on Cisco's C3160 rack server, which was released in 2014. The UCS S3260 has up to 600 TB of storage capacity, 90 TB of solid state drive flash, cache acceleration capabilities, and provides scaling with Cisco's UCS Manager software and unified input/output (I/O) connectivity for any type of storage.

Patrick Cronin, co-founder and principal of Kovarus Inc., a San Ramon, Calif.-based solution provider and Cisco partner ranked No. 104 on CRN's 2016 Solution Provider 500, said the UCS S3260 allows Cisco to attack a market where competitors don't own as broad of a portfolio.

"They have a fantastic opportunity to attack the market," said Cronin. "There [are] not that many good players in this market. So based on where Cisco is as far as a company and what they can do from an engineering perspective to drive this S-Series into the market -- not only from a marketing and sales perspective, but as well from an engineering perspective and attaching their other products – it's a great play."

Scott Mohr, data center lead for Cisco's Global Partner Organization, said the new offering also enables channel partners to "attack a large refresh and install base" of existing Cisco UCS customers.

"We have a large install base out there for UCS, and we've created something here that our partners can drop right in there and be involved in even more conversations in terms of workloads and things they can do for customers," said Mohr.

The company will expand the S-Series portfolio sometime in 2017, according to Mohr, with the UCS S3260 being the anchor.

The UCS S3260 addresses the needs of data-intensive workloads such as big data, streaming media and collaboration applications, as well as in deploying software-defined storage, object storage and data protection offerings, according to Cisco's Mohr.

"We're solving the challenge that [customers] have for building these types of storage platforms on x86 [servers] on-premise, but we're also providing the connection out to the public cloud when customers need it," he said. "So you end up with this hybrid approach across our portfolio."

The UCS S3260 has a long-term total cost of ownership savings of 56 percent over Amazon Web Services' Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) with regard to active data in a three-year analysis of the S-Series versus the AWS S3, according to Cisco. To house 420 TB of cloud storage for three years on Amazon S3 costs around $550,000, compared with about $250,000 to house the data on the on-premise S-Series, Cisco said.

"A lot of customers really end up being surprised by the cost of active data in the cloud, and it’s something we're trying to draw attention to. There's a perception that the cloud is not only faster, but also a lower cost versus on-premise and that's just not the case," said Brannon.

The S-Series is a different direction from the company's Invicta storage strategy, according to Brannon. Last year, Cisco closed its Invicta storage business, which was based on its 2013 acquisition of Whiptail.

"This is a sharp contrast to centralized storage or array-based storage. This is really all about server-based distributed applications … these are all workloads that are going to land on x86 versus a SAN or centralized storage type of architecture," said Brannon. "This is very much a platform play. We're not offering this as a storage device, we don’t have our own stack that we're bundling here. … This is a horizontal platform play."

The UCS S3260 will become available for partners to sell starting Nov. 7.

The networking giant also launched the next generation of its ONE Enterprise Cloud Suite at Cisco Partner Summit in San Francisco Tuesday.

The hybrid cloud software provides "freedom of choice" for application teams and delivers a self-service portal that can be tailored for end users and application developers, said Cisco.

The ONE Enterprise Cloud Suite includes infrastructure automation, service management, cloud management and big data automation. The suites, which can be used singly or in any combination, have annual subscription licenses in one-, three- and five-year options.

Kovarus' Cronin said he plans to utilize all four of the suites as his customers are seeking inexpensive and efficient platforms. "All of those packages are components of that … all of these are absolutely things customers need, it just depends on what they're doing with it," he said.

Cronin said although Cisco's public cloud strategy is still unclear, the networking giant is heading down the right path with a hybrid cloud approach.

"There's kind of a point of diminishing return of everything going in the cloud," said Cronin. "Cisco's certainly going down the right path as far as building these products and solutions for the private cloud."