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Cisco California pricing revealed

$3,000 for a blade with no innards

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Exclusive Cisco Systems is fixing to start shipping its "California" Unified Computing System blade servers with their integrated networking for servers and storage, and it looks like one of the key features not on the list of components for the California boxes is going to be a red discount pen. Cisco is charging some pretty high prices for the components of the California boxes, according to sources who have obtained its price list and shared with El Reg.

While Cisco has provided some configured system comparisons to customers, which El Reg reported on back in March, and there has been some banter from blade server maker Egenera trying to pick apart these numbers and some responses that seem to show Egenera made some math errors in its analysts, what no one has been able to get their hands on is what the California system components really cost.

The word on the street is that the UCS B200 M1 blade server, the base two-socket box without the memory extension technology that Cisco hopes will give it differentiation against other providers of blade servers using Intel's "Nehalem EP" Xeon 5500 processors, has a list price of $2,954. And that is a blade without processors, memory, disk drives, or I/O expansion cards.

Cisco is trying to get a huge markup on Intel's Xeon 5500 family of chips, and it plans to set the list prices on the processors it resells at a low of $1,499 for a 2.26 GHz Xeon L5520 (that's the 60-watt part) to a high of $3,749 for 2.93 GHz Xeon X5570 (that's the 95-watt part). A 2.53 GHz Xeon E5540 will run you $2,061, apparently. Granted these are all onesies, and that means the prices are high. But Intel is charging about a third that amount at list price for 1,000-unit trays for these quad-core Nehalem processors. Cisco is, however, tossing in the heat sinks for the CPUs for free, so there is that. The UCS 5100 chassis costs $5,999.

Memory on the B-Series blades is not going to be cheap, either, with 2 GB DDR3 memory modules running $189 for 1.07 GHz modules and $205 for 1.33 GHz modules; 4 GB modules running at these two speeds will cost $355 and $375 a pop, respectively, and an 8 GB module running at 1.07 GHz will cost $1,857. That kind of spread in price will make 8 GB modules unpopular until next year except for customers who really need the memory to support VMware's vSphere server virtualization hypervisor and who can't wait for the memory extended versions of the B-Series blades.

According to sources who have seen the price list, a 73 GB SAS drive spinning at 15K RPM for the B-Series blade has a list price of $655, and a slower 10K RPM SAS drive with 146 GB of capacity will list for $561.

There's a bunch of mezzanine cards for the blades, including Cisco's own virtual interface card for linking into the Unified Fabric, which is a two-port 10 Gigabit Ethernet adapter tweaked to support virtualized servers that has a $1,499 list price. A regular 10 GE adapter that is designed for high-speed TCP/IP networking costs $1,311. An Emulex 10 GE converged network adapter (also a two-port card) costs $1,499, and a similar QLogic two-port 10 GE converged network adapter costs $1,404.

The word on the street is that the 20-port UCS Fabric Interconnect switch will sell for $26,249, while the 40-port switch (which is necessary to get the UCS setup to its maximum of 320 blade server nodes) will cost $49,686. The Fibre Channel expansion modules cost $3,186 (that's for an eight-port, 4 Gb/sec FC link), while a six-port 10 GE expansion module costs $5,436. Fabric extension modules, which link the blades to the UCS 6100 switches, cost $3,749 for a four-port module.

Now when everybody is arguing about what Cisco is charging, we can argue with the "real" prices. I'll take a stab at comparing California to other blade alternatives once I gather up some more information. ®

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