Sunday, 7 June 2009

Cisco UCS C Series - Some answered questions

For those unaware this week Cisco has announced rackmount servers to complement the UCS family

Way back in March on this VMlover blog post I raised a few opinions and views on UCS and questions around the possible future of the overall hardware offering, surprisingly Cisco answered some of these directly in a direct feedback video (I nearly choked on my coffee when I found this out), the original post brought up some of these questions around whether Cisco would release a Rackmount solution along with Blade to provide customers that do not use Blade today with server alternatives within the Cisco range and lo and behold now it appears the questions have been asked by a hardware server release of C Series Rackmount servers in UCS!

Cisco's strategy for entering the datacenter world is exceptionally aggressive and certainly risky in the middle of an economic downturn, I give them ultimate credit for this. Now Cisco have the full server model portfolio I provide some more thoughts and questions on Cisco's Datacenter 3.0 strategy;

Will UCS be fully price competitive against vendors like HP/IBM/Dell or will it simply be of the same price point and highlight to customers more about indirect cost benefit savings achieved through reductions with Unified Connectivity and enchanced agility with "free" centralised management tools?

With Cisco having mostly large datacenter coverage with Networking and Internet connectivity I suspect that they will be competitive to a large degree. I'm not talking Dell drop your pants material here but I do think they will bite at HP/IBM offerings and market customers with aggressive sales.

Cisco will most likely want to perform TCO/ROI exercises to "work with your organisation" they do this quite successfully on product sets today and why not as long as they can show you that it has cost saving potential, it it dosnt I think they know where they are heading with customers, this is commodity remember.

Will the provided UCS management tools extend to cover Rackmounts?

I suspect that we may see point management of server builds and deployments in Rackmount and we may see FcOE provisioning and zoning policys being defined via UCS manager as with the B Series boxes.

Most alternative blade manufacturers provide the management stack built in at host level with examples being HP SIM/Altiris offerings, so UCS is not new to this arena. But what UCS does have that is different on B Series Blades is a component which resides on a Fabric extender module called CMC (Chassis Management Switch), although on observation it looks to work in similar fashion to iLO on HP Blades but extends further down the stack to perform activity such as manage physical hardware components, zone storage, apply QOS networking policy on each physical UCS blade and many more.

It will be real cool if Rackmounts also have this central operational control and management policy driven environment all being provided through the onboard CMC across unified fabric, it will truly add to the value add proposition of reducing operation cost without purchasing additional tools and networking infrastructure to run it. This could even be the start of the truly lights out datacenter! God UCS really is the x86 Mainframe when you look at its potential.

Could C series Rackmount be more popular than the B Series blade?

With Rackmount being the grandfather of commodity computing in datacenters this could happen. Some organisations select Rackmount servers because it reduces risk and it is within their comfort zone, It will be interesting to see how sales figures look between the two.

Turn this statement on its head though and Networking folk have used Blade in telecommunication for yonks, the 6500 Series data switching is fully bladed and offers BIG cost benefits with overall consolidated footprint and management, also MDS SAN Connectivity is chassis based. With Nexus being blade based this could mean Blade sales are more predominant with UCS. I personally think Blade is the way to go, its consolidation at the highest level which drives efficiency in your datacenter.

Rackmount likely to provide more dense memory?

Most certainly yes, architecturally rackmount tin has more space to put the RAM, also with the new Cisco UCS extended memory capability's this offers larger opportunity to exploit the custom "Catalina" ASIC which provides more Memory capacity within UCS than competitors.

You could argue is 384GB of Memory in a Blade enough though! However I'm sure we said this about 4GB of memory pre x64 bit era.

When do Cisco buy the storage company or at least OEM storage?

I'll maybe let the future do the talking on this one...I can see it happening and just wanted to give me opportunity to go back and revisit unanswered topics in months to come :)


Overall the more I read about UCS and its in inbuilt technological benefits the more I really want to see it in action and being deployed to see what results can be achieved both technically and operationally. I believe Cisco is releasing UCS this quarter so will be extremely interested to hear on the grapevine and blogosphere who is deploying UCS.


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