Cisco UCS

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CISCO Unified Computing System

Cisco Unified Computing System (Cisco UCS) is a novel data center architecture which unites computing, storage and network resources into a coherent, high-available system designed to reduce Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Cisco UCS is based on industry standards, e.g., x86-architecture, 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) and FibreChannel (FC).  By exploiting various virtualization mechanisms, Cisco UCS promises increasing IT agility and responsiveness while reducing data center TCO dramatically at the same time.

Building blocks

Cisco UCS solution consists of a number of products dedicated to perform different tasks. An overview of Cisco UCS products is depicted in Figure 1. We can divide these products into a few categories as follows:

  • ·         “Servers” is a category which includes devices related to computation, i.e., UCS Blade Servers and UCS Blade Server Chassis.
  • ·         “Fabric interconnect” category includes network-related devices that provide interconnectivity between Cisco UCS servers and the Internet, i.e., fabric interconnects, fabric extenders and UCS Virtual Interface Card.
  • ·         “Management software” includes a number of applications for managing Cisco UCS installations.

In the following subsections, each of the categories is described in more details.

 

Figure 1: Cisco Unified Computing System products. [source: http://news.cnet.com/]

Figure 1: Cisco Unified Computing System products. [source: http://news.cnet.com/

 

 

Servers

Computing power within Cisco UCS installation is provided by UCS Blade Servers which are packed into UCS Blade Server Chassis. Cisco provides UCS Blade Servers in two different sizes:

  • ·         “Half-width” which can be equipped with two Intel 5600 series processors, up to 192GB of DDR3 RAM with 8GB DIMMs, two Small Form Factor (SFF) Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) drive slots, a single fabric interconnect slot, and a connection to the blade backplane.
  • ·         “Full-width” which can be equipped with two Intel 5600 series processors, up to 384GB of DDR3 RAM with 8GB DIMMs, two Small Form Factor (SFF) Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) drive slots, two slots for fabric interconnect devices, and a connection to the blade backplane.

Department of Computer Science, AGH University has 32 “half-width” UCS Blade servers, each with two Intel Xeon E5649@2.53 GHz, 80 GB DDR3 RAM, two 300 GB SFF SAS HDD@10k rpm and UCS M81KR Virtual Interface Card.

UCS M81KR Virtual Interface Card is a virtualization-optimized mezzanine card designed for use with Cisco UCS Blade Servers. It provides two 10GbE ports and supports up to 128 virtual interfaces each of which can be dynamically configured to support either standard Ethernet or FibreChannel over Ethernet (FCoE) traffic.

The servers are packed in four 5108 UCS Blade Server Chassis, each of which has 8 “half-width” slots, 4 power supplies (2500 W), 8 fans and one fabric extender. The components of the chassis are hot-pluggable, i.e., can be replaced during runtime.


Fabric interconnect

Cisco UCS provides unified communication between different component with low-latency, lossless 10 GbE standard and FCoE mechanisms. By using unified fabric layer, Cisco UCS dramatically decreases the amount of cables required in a data center. Devices from “Fabric interconnect” category provide network connectivity to all attached blade servers and chassis.

Cisco UCS installation at Department of Computer Science, AGH University is based on UCS 6120XP 20-port fabric interconnect which provides throughput up to 520 Gb/s. In addition, each UCS Blade Server Chassis is equipped with a UCS Fabric Extender module which provides connections between blade servers and the fabric interconnect.

 

Management Software

In order to manage Cisco UCS installation, dedicated software is provided named Cisco UCS Manager. It provides unified view and management capabilities of all software and hardware components of Cisco UCS even across multiple chassis and virtual machines. To interact with Cisco UCS Manager an administrator can use either Graphical User Interface, command-line interface or programming interface based on XML-RPC.

Cisco UCS Manager integrates with VMware vCenter Infrastructure Management to manage virtual infrastructure running on Cisco UCS Blade Servers. A short list of available features is as follows: 

  • resource allocation, monitoring different quality-related parameters of an installation with customizable charts, e.g., 
  • resource utilization, 
  • alarm definition for various situations, 
  • many many others.

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