Cisco is taking virtualization from the network layer up as an alternative approach from a data center architecture perspective. These are not ordinary blade servers being announced today. The new Unified Computing System from Cisco will have a simplified infrastructure, meaning fewer management modules, I/O bays and a more open backplane. Nehalem-EP processors can support half-blade or full-width blade configurations providing a great deal of flexibility. The release states "patented extended memory technology" to support applications with large data sets. They've taken an approach to economically address large logical memory requirements with better physical DIMM utilization (think lower cost). Supporting iSCSCI, Fiber channel and Fiber Channel over Ethernet gives customers the option of NAS or SAN support and a built-in upgrade path. Much of the news most likely will focus on HP, Dell and IBM and what this means for Cisco's large strategic partners. The blades could cut both ways.