cisco ucs benefits of data center networks

It’s been a decade since Cisco announced “Project California” in March of 2009, launched the following year as the Unified Computing System (UCS) platform. This bold entry into the enterprise server market was met – at first – with a combination of skepticism and bewilderment.

But within five years of its launch, Cisco had overtaken HP as the top blade server vendor. In 2014, Forrester praised the product line as a “successful disruption and a new status quo”. So how did a total newcomer blow all its competition out of the water and rise to the ranks of industry standard?

The Quest for Server Automation

When it comes to the space for server blades, HP had the leg up for some time – in 2005, it acquired the patent for commercial blade architecture from its purchase of RLX Systems. In 2009 – the same year that Cisco announced Project California – it released the BladeSystem Matrix, its attempt to create true data center automation.

With the aid of VMware, HP’s Matrix allowed administrators to configure server blades through software-defined templates which could be duplicated and used to configure new ones quickly.

This early effort to manage and provision servers through code is an example of Infrastructure as Code (IaC), defined well by InfoWorld contributor Paul Venezia in a commentary published that year:

The ideal of divorcing services from hardware and pushing server management away from the physical layer…”

After testing Matrix, Venezia concluded it had some ways to go, and in another article concluded:

“The setup and initial configuration of the Matrix product is not for the faint of heart. You must know your way around all the products quite well and be able to provide an adequate framework for the Matrix layer to function”

A server technology that really lived up to the ambitions of automation seemed to be some ways down the road – until, that is, the launch of UCS.

What is Unified Computing?

While Matrix had retained traditional hardware with a virtualized software layer, Cisco defined a new approach to server architecture specifically designed to support abstraction by merging network, storage and memory traffic in “fabrics”.

The approach – often referred to as “converged” or “fabric” computing – took automation the rest of the way to a truly agile, centrally managed and scalable server infrastructure. Early comparisons with Matrix revealed a massive reduction in the complexity which Venezia commented on – deploying a 2-blade system with UCS took 28 fewer steps.

benefits of cisco ucs

Today, Cisco’s UCS platform remains the standard for enterprise fabric computing. Here are five ways that UCS adoption transforms a standard data center:

  1. Single Pane of Glass

In some industries, “single pane of glass” management is still a buzzword. For UCS, it’s a reality: with the UCS Manager, organizations can

  • Manage and configure up to one thousand UCS (and now HyperFlex) products from a single pane
  • View and altar server configurations from CPU to memory across the enterprise
  • Centrally monitor memory, power supply and temperature errors in real-time
  • View all server incidents and alerts from a single location

For server administrators, centralized control provides reduced time to service (TTS), significantly fewer redundant processes, and a better top-down view of a data center’s daily operations.

  1. Programmability

The ability to manage servers through code is likely the most recognizable feature of the UCS ecosystem. Besides enabling fast deployment of new server configurations, IaC provides numerous advantages:

  • Eliminates configuration drift, facilitating easier, standardized development and continuous delivery
  • Reduced total cost of ownership (TCO) through automation
  • Through the UCS Platform Emulator, companies can develop applications for various systems without investing in physical hardware

When it comes to hardware virtualization, the sky is the limit in terms of development and deployment. While Cisco is not the first to offer virtualization, it is by far the best commercial networking platform developed specifically for that purpose.

  1. Ease of Migration

Migrating, configuring and deploying new servers is a time-consuming process; in traditional data centers, removing and re-configuring old servers can interfere with or even halt operations.

UCS elegantly resolves these issues by allowing an administrator to:

  • Transfer a service profile from one domain to another all from the management UI
  • Rapidly migrate data between servers in less than an hour
  • Pre-configure and test power, network and storage settings with minimal impact on the end user

With server pooling, grouped machines can even be configured with the push of a button, eliminating much of the grunt work involved with setting up new workflows and configurations.

  1. Fast Recovery for Hardware Failure

As a corollary of easy configuration and deployment, UCS allows server profiles to be easily swapped in the case of a hardware failure. Moreover, the Cisco blade chassis provides a nearly plug-and-play experience for replacing broken equipment.

With server pooling and automation rules, UCS can even re-deploy a failed server profile without user intervention, saving a data center on resources and precious downtime.

Conclusion

The sheer number of expanded capabilities provided by UCS are a testament to the innovation behind its core features. Simply put, fabric architecture offers server admins the ability to utilize any hardware resources any way they want.

While the future may hold even further convergence in networking infrastructure, for now we think UCS fulfills the ideal Venezia articulated ten years ago: if it can be imagined and programmed – with UCS – it can be done.

Professional Cisco Support in Northern Virginia

Located near the booming data center corridor in Loudon County, VA, Digital Tech Inc provides rapid response maintenance services including EOSL extension, spare parts, short- and long-term maintenance agreements, migration assistance and depot repair options. Our skilled engineers offer multi-vendor support, covering IBM, HP, Dell EMC, Cisco, NetApp, and many more.

To learn more, contact us today.

cisco ucs - data center it support, end of life support for it systems

“Agility” has become the marching order of today’s digital transformation initiatives across industries ranging from IT to services to fast food restaurants. A vector of “scalability” and “adaptability,” the term simply means: “the ability to respond quickly to changes or threats.”

An agile data center is therefore one which can scale or downsize quickly with growth, respond well to variable workloads and get back on its feet quickly after a network outage or system failure. This comprises a few distinct goals:

  • Meeting service level agreements (SLAs) by maintaining performance standards
  • Reducing the amount of labor and steps required to service, replace or scale systems
  • Reducing the impact of failure on operations using automation and straightforward response strategies

If this scheme smacks of getting your cake and eating it too, that’s because efficiency and higher performance rarely go together with a reduction in labor or complexity. DCAs often walk a thin line between cost and performance, falling back on redundant infrastructure and a large staff to keep things working smoothly.

Why Data Centers Aren’t Agile

The average data center has too many moving parts to be predictable. Equipment failure happens all the time, whether due to mechanical issues or human error. When it occurs, deployment is often cumbersome, resulting in a lengthy time-to-service (TTS).

To make matters worse, most data centers are perilously complex, involving an indefinite number of blades, racks, switches and routers without a central administration platform. This “siloing” of equipment and systems means that upscaling or downsizing is no easy task for administrators.

Agility means – among other things – efficiency and simplicity. When an organization, strategy or workflow devolves into a rubik’s cube of interconnected parts, one small change has unintended consequences, creating resistance to change in general.

Fortunately, it is possible to achieve even the highest ambitions of agility in the data center using a non-traditional approach to IT: unified computing.

The Unified Computing Servers

Cisco’s unified computing system (UCS) is a converged IT architecture for enterprise environments which abstracts hardware from functionality, allowing administrators to define and automate processes with minimal labor.

Using fabric interconnects (FI), UCS takes a “single pane of glass” approach to server management, enabling administrators to manage equipment through the creation of policies, pools, and profiles for blades and rackmount servers. Not only does this centralized approach eliminate a significant amount of grunt work, it also solves the issue of siloing in fell swoop.

Here are some of the ways that UCS creates a more agile data center:

  1. Policy Based Management allows administrators to configure 100 servers as easily as configuring one. UCS allows for the creation of service profile templates which are automatically configured as soon as a device is plugged in. This approach is as close to “plug and play” as a data center has ever come, leading a significant reduction in labor.
  2. By eliminating the need to manually boot and configure servers, UCS reduces TTS by a significant margin. In comparison with competitors, blades can be fully integrated into UCS fiber interconnects 47-77% faster than in traditional server environments.
  3. By simplifying the number of switching layers, devices and equipment connected to a network, UCS also allows for fast scaling and easy downsizing. Adding and removing devices is painless, requiring no manual adjustments.
  4. UCS improves utilization of equipment through the use of server pools that dynamically repurpose to accept certain kinds of traffic or tasks depending on workload. This reduces the amount of equipment a data center must deploy, leading to lower costs.

While the term “agile” has been overused in recent years, UCS is one of the few technologies which really lives up to that promise in a field where agility has never been more elusive or important. And with Cisco’s recent updates to its UCS server line configured to support edge computing and AI/ML workflows, support isn’t going anywhere soon.

If you’re looking to bring digital transformation and agile processes to your data center, UCS isn’t a bad place to start the search.

Professional Cisco Support in Northern Virginia

Located near the booming data center corridor in Loudon County, VA, Digital Tech Inc provides rapid response maintenance services including EOSL extension, spare parts, short- and long-term maintenance agreements, migration assistance and depot repair options. Our skilled engineers offer multi-vendor support, covering IBM, HP, Dell EMC, Cisco, NetApp, and many more.

To learn more, contact us today.

Cisco support for intersight

A primary design goal of Cisco Intersight is to simplify and automate IT operations. Cisco Intersight – Essentials delivers on this objective with significant new advantages to Cisco UCS and HyperFlex customers.

Guest Blogger: Gautham Ravi, Director, UCS Product Management

Pervasive Simplicity

One of the challenges of management at scale is keeping things simple. When we first began developing the requirements for Cisco Intersight, our customers told us we needed to address the tedious tasks associated with maintaining systems. We had to simplify and automate many activities. I described this fundamental requirement as the customer demand for pervasive simplicity in a previous blog. Cisco Intersight – Essentials is designed to address many of these issues, such as updating firmware and making deployments more efficient.

We wanted to explain how we have designed Intersight to make management of Cisco UCS and HyperFlex easier, so we developed this video to summarize some of the benefits.

Automating Updates

The process of updating and maintaining firmware at the right levels can be very time consuming. This is particularly true for customers with systems in multiple locations. However, it is critical to apply updates in a timely and consistent manner to ensure security and compliance.

Cisco Intersight – Essentials addresses this issue by providing automated firmware updates for Cisco UCS C-Series servers. You can set policies to automatically update your rack-mount servers wherever they are located. We also support functions like UCS C-Series policy-based configuration with Service Profiles and virtual KVM to make remote provisioning and management easier. Here’s a link to an Intersight Communities page, if you’d like more technical details.

We’ve also created this demo video to explain how the automated firmware update feature works.

Streamlining Deployments

Many of our HyperFlex and Cisco UCS customers support systems in remote locations. They wanted it to be easier to roll out new systems and transition to hyperconverged infrastructure. We recently added a new HyperFlex Installer that dramatically simplifies deployments. This blog provides you with more details.

Cisco Intersight is cloud-based management as-a-service, so we will constantly be rolling out new functionality and making it immediately available to our customers. We are just getting started.

Try It for Free

You can take advantage of the benefits of this new platform today at no cost by trying the free 90 day trial of Cisco Intersight – Essentials. Just go to the Intersight portal at intersight.com and logon using your Cisco ID. There’s also a getting started video to help you.

 


For additional information:

  • #CLEUR: If you’re attending Cisco Live Barcelona this week, learn more about the Cisco Intersight by stopping by the demo booth in the Data Center zone.
  • If you can’t join us at Cisco Live, please go to www.cisco.com/go/intersight