The Linux part of Cisco's Unified Computing System

Cisco isn't happy with just being the data center and Internet networking big dog. The company now wants, with its Unified Computing System, to be the data center alpha dog. Cisco will be producing its own high-end 64-bit blade servers with Intel Nehalem processors, which will be powered by VMware, Windows Server 2008, and, pay attention now, Red Hat's RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux).

In all the excitement over Cisco taking on HP, Dell and IBM in the server space, people seem to have missed that Linux is part of Cisco's plan. Novell and Red Hat are both partners. While I still don't know what part Novell will be playing, Red Hat was more than happy to tell me what they'll be doing.

Mike Evans, Red Hat's VP of Corporate Development told me that Red Hat and Cisco have been working on bringing RHEL 5 to the UCS (Unified Computing System) for over nine-months. So, when Cisco starts shipping its first servers, RHEL will be ready to run on them.

And, it will be more than just RHEL. You'll be able to run all of Red Hat's ISV (independent software vendor) applications. In addition, thanks to Red Hat's certify-once, deploy-anywhere certification program, Evans said you'll be able to run them in both virtualized and non-virtualized environments.

Virtualized? Yes. Evans sees RHEL being deployed as both a native UCS operating system and on VMware. But, that's only for the start. When Red Hat releases RHEL 5.4, which supports KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) virtualization in August, Cisco will be supporting it too.

Cisco will immediately certify the Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization suite of technologies since the two companies are already working on combining the two. Then, according to Evans, you'll see customers using RHEL not only as a native UCS operating system, but running virtualized Windows Server 2008 on Linux as well.

Don't think, by the way, that RHEL will be a second-class system on UCS. Evans said that 80% of Cisco's prospects are already using RHEL on the beta UCS sites.

Oh, and one last thing, while everyone sees this mostly as a server play, Evans told me that some customers are already asking about using UCS to power up virtual Red Hat desktops.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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