Disclaimer: Some of the individuals posting to this site, including the moderators, work for Cisco Systems, Inc. Opinions expressed here and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors, not those of Cisco.

SDN Isn’t Kryptonite To The Network Engineer

May 26th, 2013

Sometimes a picture is worth more than a 1000 word response to articles like this:  http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/05/24/network_configuration_automation/

image Read more…

May 26th, 2013 | Filed under Networking
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Cisco’s Trajectory In Gartner’s Magic Quadrant For Blade Servers

File:RiflemansRule.svgMay 16th, 2013

Trajectories are telling. They tell where an object started, where it currently is, and where it is most likely headed. While Gartner Magic Quadrants are “point in time” research reports and stand independent of any previous or future report, comparing the movement of vendors within the quadrant over time provides insight on where a vendor started, where they currently are, and where they are most likely headed. Keeping trajectories in mind, let’s examine Gartner’s recently updated Magic Quadrant for Blade Servers (2013).

Compared to last year’s quadrant, one could say there was very little change for most vendors overall. In fact, Fujitsu was the only vendor that moved quadrants – a ‘visionary’ in 2012 but a ‘challenger’ in 2013. Focusing on the ‘leaders’ quadrant, a reader must closely inspect HP, IBM, and Dell to notice any movement relative to 2012. HP dropped slightly on ‘ability to execute’ while IBM and Dell each increased slightly in both execution and vision. Cisco was the only vendor that recorded significant jumps in both ‘ability to execute’ and ‘completeness of vision’.

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May 16th, 2013 | Filed under Cisco UCS

UCS Networking: Simplicity of Rack Connectivity PLUS All The Benefits of Blade and Virtualization

imageOctober 18th, 2012

There are many reasons why Cisco UCS isn’t a “me too” blade solution. Just some of the differentiators compared to its competitors are: consolidated management, stateless configuration and identity using Service Profiles, form factor design that accommodates the best CPU/memory/IO footprint, highly efficient power and cooling design, extensive 3rd party management integration, open API (published SDK), fully featured PowerShell implementation, virtualization enhancements and integration, and last but certainly not least is networking. This IS a Cisco product, right?

In a previous post, we covered current server connectivity design options, the trade-offs they required (too many cables to run or too many switches to manage), and how Cisco’s FEX-Link architecture solves both problems. Next we’ll outline the networking trade-offs required when deploying legacy blade technologies and server virtualization. Lastly, we’ll discuss how UCS provides the simplicity of the rack server connectivity design while also providing all the benefits of blades and virtualization. In other words, no trade-offs.

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Oct 18th, 2012 | Filed under Cisco UCS

A Quick Primer on Cisco Fabric Extension (FEX-Link)

imageAugust 20th, 2012

One of the many technologies used by Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS) is Fabric Extension. Before we discuss the applications of Fabric Extension and how it’s used within UCS (in subsequent blog posts), let’s first discuss the basic problem that fabric extension solves, walk through a quick component overview, and lastly, discuss a simple design showing the logical vs. physical topology.

The Basic Problem and Basic Solution

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Aug 20th, 2012 | Filed under Cisco UCS

Introduction to the New Cisco UCS 6296UP Fabric Interconnect and 2204XP I/O Module

May 18th, 2012

Today Cisco began shipping two brand new additions to the Cisco UCS fabric portfolio – a new Fabric Interconnect (6296UP) and a new I/O module (2204XP).

In 2011, Cisco began shipping the UCS 6248UP Fabric Interconnect. This year, Cisco augments the Fabric Interconnect portfolio with the Cisco UCS 6296UP Fabric Interconnect. You can think of the 6296UP Fabric Interconnect as a 6248UP Fabric Interconnect on steroids (that haven’t banned Vitamin S for blades yet). The 6296UP provides up to 96 unified fabric ports, 1.92 Terabits of switching capacity, 2.0 us latency, and support for up to 20 UCS B Series chassis (or up to 160 UCS servers – either B Series or C series).

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May 18th, 2012 | Filed under Cisco UCS

UCS 2.0: Cisco Stacks the Deck in Las Vegas

July 15th, 2011

This week at CiscoLive 2011 in Las Vegas, Cisco announced new additions to the Cisco UCS fabric architecture. In addition to the existing UCS fabric hardware, UCS customers now have a choice of a new Fabric Interconnect, a new chassis I/O module, and a new Virtual Interface Card.  The 6248UP Fabric Interconnect delivers double the throughput, almost half the latency, and more than quadruple the virtual interfaces per downlink, while the new 2208XP chassis I/O module delivers double the chassis uplink bandwidth and quadruple the server downlinks.  Last but not least, the 1280 Virtual Interface Card (VIC) server adapter provides quadruple the fabric bandwidth for UCS blade servers by delivering two active 40 Gbps paths per server.

Did I mention these new announcements were additions to the UCS product portfolio, not replacements? I’m not sure I did, so I’ll repeat it… UCS customers now have three Fabric Interconnects, two chassis I/O modules, two Virtual Interface Cards, and multiple traditional network adapters to choose from – and they’re all interoperable.

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Jul 15th, 2011 | Filed under Cisco UCS

The Tale of Two Cisco UCS Predictions

May 25th, 2011

If Charles Dickens were to write a book about it, it would begin like this: “It was the best of predictions, it was the worst of predictions, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief from a new comer, it was the epoch of incredulity from an incumbent…”

Of course, I’m referring to the UCS market share predictions from Cisco’s CEO, John Chambers compared to the UCS statements made by HP’s senior management. Let’s summarize each side’s statements before we dive into the hard facts.

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May 25th, 2011 | Filed under Cisco UCS

Cisco UCS B-Series NIC Teaming & Bonding OS Support Matrices

May 17th, 2011

Recently, a couple of Twitter pals of mine, @veverything and @ChrisFendya, discussed VMware KB article 1013094 that stated an unsupported teaming type for the Cisco UCS B200 blade server. Their discussion made me realize that there wasn’t an easy-to-find resource for Cisco UCS customers that needed to know “OS Team Types Supported Per UCS Network Adapter” and “Unsupported Team Types”.

Below you will find both of these resources. I’ve listed a chart per Cisco UCS B-Series Network Adapter that shows the teaming/bonding types that will work per Operating System. Lastly, you’ll find a chart showing the team types that will not work.

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May 17th, 2011 | Filed under Cisco UCS

The Cisco UCS Advantage Series

April 7th, 2011 (updated May 6th, 2011)

I love a box of chocolates for one simple reason – it provides a variety of bite-sized samples.  I get to taste several small samples and quickly determine which ones interest me and which ones don’t.  Well, why not package technical product discussions the same way?  I mean, why not provide several time-sized sample discussions of the technical advantages of a product or solution and let the consumer quickly determine which ones interest them or not?

Allow me to introduce you to the first round of the “Cisco UCS Advantage Series”…or, as I refer to it, a box of UCS chocolates.  This series was developed by Cisco to give our customers a quick sampling of just a few of the technical advantages of Cisco’s Unified Computing System solution.  Go on…sample a few.  They’re low calorie. Read more…

Apr 7th, 2011 | Filed under Cisco UCS

Cisco’s Stocking Stuffer for UCS Customers: Firmware Release 1.4(1)

December 20th, 2010

Santa came early this year for Cisco UCS customers. Today, Cisco released UCS firmware version 1.4(1).  This release is the single most impressive feature enhancement release I’ve seen in all my 11 years of working on blade servers.  Allow me to walk you through this list of new features and provide a deeper dive into some of the details behind each one.

Note: The Release Notes are posted here: http://www.cisco.com/en/US/partner/docs/unified_computing/ucs/release/notes/OL_24086.html

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Dec 20th, 2010 | Filed under Cisco UCS

Cisco UCS Case Studies and References

Oct. 26, 2010

“Products looking for customers” are very similar to “people looking for jobs” – the need for references that vouch for promised capabilities is a must. One or two people saying you can walk on water or turn water into wine probably won’t convince anyone that you told the truth on your resume. However, show up with 50+ quotable references from respectable sources and your prospective employer realizes you’re the real deal.

Well, Cisco’s entry into the server market is the real deal and you can believe everything on Cisco’s server resume. Just for starters, here are just 50 or so references from respectable sources that I’ve come across recently. Unfortunately, I can only list references with public statements regarding their UCS experiences. In other words, this list is just the tip of the iceberg of UCS deployments.

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Oct 26th, 2010 | Filed under Cisco UCS

The Cisco UCS B230 – the Goldilocks Blade Server

Sept 14, 2010

As the fairy tale goes, Goldilocks thought the chairs were either too big or too small. Unfortunately, she could have also been describing many blade servers out there today – they’re either too big (taking up too many expensive blade chassis/mini-rack slots) or they’re too small (providing too little memory). In a direct response to this problem, Cisco has developed the first blade server that isn’t too big or too small, but “just right”…

On Tuesday, September 14th Cisco announced the 13th server in the UCS server portfolio – the Cisco UCS B230 M1. This innovative blade has a unique form factor and memory density relative to the rest of the industry. This is a breakthrough form factor that offers the highest memory density and up to 16 cores in a single slot blade. A 6U blade chassis can now hold up to 256 DIMMs and 128 cores. This means you can put more blades, more memory, and more cores in a smaller space, reducing costs and complexity. Read more…

Sep 14th, 2010 | Filed under Cisco UCS

Great Minds Think Alike – Cisco and VMware Agree On Sharing vs. Limiting

Sept. 13th, 2010

While reading a very informative blog post by Aaron Delp regarding VMware’s new NetIOC capability, I realized that Cisco and VMware are on the same page when it comes to server network traffic control. VMware’s NetIOC best practices plainly state exactly what Cisco has been advocating for so long – the user should plan for network contention but should not needlessly limit bandwidth in the absence of contention. 

VMware’s NetIOC Best Practices states the following:   Read more…

Sep 13th, 2010 | Filed under Cisco UCS

Cisco UCS B-Series Server Network Adapter Options Overview

Sept. 12th, 2010

Here’s a quick overview of the server network adapter options for Cisco’s UCS B-Series blade servers. Cisco has three classes of adapters:

  1. Cost Optimized:
    82598KR-I (Intel), M61KR-I (Intel), and M51KR-B (Broadcom)
  2. Compatibility Optimized:
    M71KR-E (Intel+Emulex), M71KR-Q (Intel+QLogic), M72KR-E (Emulex), and M72KR-Q (QLogic)
  3. Virtualization Optimized:
    M81KR (Palo)

Read more…

Sep 12th, 2010 | Filed under Cisco UCS

Virtual Disconnect: Migrating from HP BladeSystem to Cisco UCS

Aug. 26th, 2010

Now in our second year of shipping Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) blade servers, it seems that most of our 1700+ UCS customers are migrating to Cisco blades from HP blades. Two teammates of mine, Jeff Allen (Twitter) and Doron Chosnek (Twitter), have developed a process to help these customers migrate from HP blade servers to Cisco UCS blade servers in a matter of minutes. Their migration process, based on publicly available documentation from HP and Cisco, allows a UCS customer to move the “server identity” of the retired HP blade server to the newly deployed Cisco UCS blade server. For a discussion of what the “server identity” is, see this previous blog entitled “The State of Statelessness: Cisco UCS vs. HP Virtual Connect“.

Doron and Jeff accomplish this HP-to-Cisco migration by extracting the server identity information out of HP Virtual Connect and then importing that server identity information into Cisco UCS Manager. Fundamentally, they export an HP Virtual Connect Server Profile and import it into Cisco UCS Manager as a Cisco UCS Service Profile.

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Aug 26th, 2010 | Filed under Cisco UCS

The Real Story About the UCS Automobile

July 23rd, 2010

I have a very convoluted family background – from being a long, lost relative of the late Marie Antoinette to being an ashamed relative of a modern day actor that can’t seem to stay out of jail.  Somewhere in between, I have a whole slew of relatives with the last name of “Wagonseller”.  As you may have guessed, they sold wagons and buggies powered by horses.  I’ve often wondered what it must have been like to be a “Wagonseller” during the years after October 1, 1908 – the day the Ford Model T was introduced.  I can just imagine all the fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) my long lost family members were probably spouting as a result of having to compete with Ford’s entrance into the transportation industry in North America with a product that was destined to be a market changer.

Well, an article recently published by one of Cisco’s competitors (http://h30458.www3.hp.com/ww/en/ent/1000692.html) made me think of my family, the Wagonsellers.  As I was reading the article, I kept laughing out loud because I could just picture the Wagonsellers writing a similar article out of fear of the newly released automobile. Their article would have just enough truth mixed in with the FUD to make it sound legitimate but, ultimately, it would argue points that are either based on non-shipping products or argue points that are completely irrelevant to a new architecture design. To help you understand what I mean in regards to “just enough truth to make it sound legitimate”, I’ve written the article below in memory of my long, lost relatives, the Wagonsellers.

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Jul 23rd, 2010 | Filed under Cisco UCS

The "Mini-Rack" Approach To Blade Server Design

imageMay 3rd, 2010

I’ve got two questions for you…

Question #1: If you were designing a datacenter full of rack servers, would you deploy two Ethernet switches, two Fibre Channel switches, and two rack managers for every 16 rack servers?  Uh, h$&# no! Read more…

May 3rd, 2010 | Filed under Cisco UCS
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The State of Statelessness: Cisco UCS vs. HP Virtual Connect

Apr. 5th, 2010

One of the many industry buzz words these days is “Stateless”. Unfortunately, even within data center technology circles, the term “stateless” or “stateful” can refer to many different things.

In this blog post, the “state” that I am referring to is the “server configuration state”… defined as a collection of settings and identifiers used for deploying a new server in the data center. What the “state” ends up representing is the “identity” of a particular server. The identity of a server is not just an IP address or a hostname. That’s about like saying that my identity is “M. Sean McGee”. No, that’s not my identity; that’s just my name. My name is one of many things that make up my identity. Other things that make up my identity are: mailing address, email addresses, family & friends, likes & dislikes, hobbies, social security number (ugh), telephone number, certifications, etc. The collection of all those things makes up my identity. It’s the collection of those things that, together, make me very unique from every other human on the planet. It’s the same with a server.

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Apr 5th, 2010 | Filed under Cisco UCS