Home > Servers > Introduction to UCS – Unified Computing System

Introduction to UCS – Unified Computing System

Recently I attended a session on UCS and was completely amazed at the amount of work put in by CISCO folks on the UCS and hence i decided to briefly explain the various components of UCS and why it is such an amazing product .  True to its name , CISCO’s UCS is a complete unified system that addresses some limitations with Servers that are available in the market today . UCS Blade Servers combined with the management software UCS Manager makes a great product. UCS seems to have been inspired from VMware in making the product Scalable , Manageable and Reliable. UCS is made for the Enterprise and purposely built for Virtualization . A strong 10GE and SAN infrastructure would make UCS an invaluable asset to any Organization .

UCS is available in two variants :

  • B Series – Blade Servers
  • C Series – Rack Mount Servers

B Series Blade Servers  :

UCS B Series is made up of Blade Chassis that consists of Blades and Fabric Extenders that connects to a Fabric Switch with Expansion Modules which in turn connects to the Corporate Network. All UCS Blade chassis and its components can be managed from UCS Manager .

UCS Manager :

  • Provides unified, embedded management of all software and hardware components (  Adapters,Blades,chassis , fabric Extenders and Fabric Interconnects ) of the Cisco Unified Computing System – across multiple chassis and thousands of virtual machines.
  • UCS Manager can be used to Discover , Configure , Inventory , Monitor , Diagnose and collect statistics of all the components.
  • CLI can also be used to manage the chassis and its components
  • OS Installations can be carried out from UCS Manager
  • KVM Consoles for the blades are available through UCS Manager

Blade Chassis & Its Components :

UCS consists of a 6U Blade Chassis with a standard front to back cooling that is scalable and flexible . This chassis can accommodate 8 Half Height Blades or 4 Full Height blades or a combination of half and full height blades .

Half Height variants that are available are :

Cisco UCS B200 M1 – Intel Xeon 5500 series powered dual processor with 12 DIMM slots that supports upto 96GB RAM and consists of 2 Internal 2.5″” SAS HDDs with an integrated RAID  support for RAID 0 and RAID 1

Cisco UCS B200 M2 – Intel Xeon 5600 series powered dual processor with 12 DIMM slots that supports upto 96GB RAM and consists of 2 Internal 2.5″” SAS HDDs with an integrated RAID  support for RAID 0 and RAID 1

Full Height Blades variants that are available are

Cisco UCS B250 M1 Extended Memory Blade Server – Intel Xeon 5500 series powered dual processor with 48 DIMM slots that supports upto 384GB RAM and consists of 2 Internal 2.5″” SAS HDDs with an integrated RAID  support for RAID 0 and RAID 1

Cisco UCS B250 M2 Extended Memory Blade Server – Intel Xeon 5600 series powered dual processor with 48 DIMM slots that supports upto 96GB RAM and consists of 2 Internal 2.5″” SAS HDDs with an integrated RAID  support for RAID 0 and RAID 1

Cisco UCS B440 M1  High Performance Blade Server – Intel Xeon 7500 series powered Quad processor with 32 DIMM slots that supports upto 256GB RAM and consists of 4 Internal 2.5″” SAS HDDs with an integrated RAID  support for RAID 0 , 1 , 5 and RAID 6 .

Fabric Switch is available in 20 Port and 40 Port configuration .

Expansion Modules is available in FC only ( 8 SFP Ports that run 1,2 & 4 Gbps FC ) , Combo FC + Ethernet  ( 4 SFP+ Ports that run 10GE &  4 SFP Ports that run 1,2 & 4 Gbps FC ) or Ethernet only ( 6 SFP+ ports that run 10GE )

Service Profiles

  • Service Profiles stores a server personality which includes UUID of the Server , identity of NIC and HBA , Boot order and various policies and what Service Profiles brings to UCS is Server Mobility .
  • Service Profiles can be disassociated and associated with any blade across any UCS Chassis. This helps administrators move Applications between blades provided OS and Data Resided on the SAN
  • Service Profiles can be cloned or deployed from Templates . Service profiles are associated with blades and can be moved between various blades .
  • Auto populating Server Pool is another cool feature wherein administrators can create an empty server pool and map it to a Server pool qualification specifying various qualification that could qualify a server for the requirement and the server would automatically be placed in the Pool

Monitoring and Reporting

  • We can configure call home to automatically notify CISCO or Administrators in case of any faults with the UCS Blades
  • Upto 3 Syslog Server can be configured to log events associated with the servers
  • SNMP is supported
  • Threshold policies can be set to trigger alarms based on conditions
  • inventory reports can be exported
  • Statistics is used to display statistics of almost all components that are part of UCS

Some advantages of UCS are

  • Centralised monitoring and reporting of all components of UCS
  • Move Applications across various blades using Server Profiles
  • Virtualization ready
  • Server Mobility
  • Diskless Configuration i.e SAN Boot is completely supported
  • Scale upto 40 Chassis and 320 Computer nodes
  • Granular Delegated Management is possible

To Conclude I believe UCS would be a great asset in environments with a Strong 1oGE and SAN infrastructure . UCS Manager is a great piece of management software that could help in managing and reporting centrally but will need some time for the administrators to get used to .

For more on UCS ,

Comparison between UCS and HP Blade : http://www.bythebell.com/2010/07/cisco-ucs-vs-hp-bladesystem-matrix-an-update.html

All Things UCS : http://viewyonder.com/cisco-ucs/

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  1. @niketown588
    July 17, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Great blog that gives an excellent introduction to the components and benefit of the UCS platform.

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