Some of the elements Cisco introduced with UCS were:Unified Fabric In legacy blade architectures you had three separate networks, LAN, SAN and management this meant you had 3 or more adapters in each blade for connectivity into three separate switches which led to a spiders web of cabling and management headaches as well as inefficient cooling and higher power costs. In the modern data centre the efficient use of the three elements of space, power and cooling are essential. With limits on physical space, the high cost and limits on power drawer and the need for “green IT” there is a requirement to make your blade infrastructure as efficient as possible. Cisco’s answer to this was to converge the three networks onto one physical switch (2 in a cluster for resilience) and to introduce converged network adapter in the servers allowing for a massive reduction in cabling which lead to more effective airflow and cooling and by making a reduction in physical switches there was also a massive drop in power drawer. Unified Management When looking at legacy blade architectures due to the number of independent devices and the way the products had evolved you were left with multiple tools to manage your blade environment. This led to an unneeded level of complexity. Cisco approached this by creating a single management tool (UCS Manager) that could manage your entire blade environment from a single GUI interface simplifying the management of your blade environment. Unified Compute or stateless computing With Unified Compute cisco took a concept more associated to virtualisation and introduced it to the physical devices. The blade servers in UCS are essentially bare metal or dumb terminal until they have a service profile associated to them. By creating a service profile you were able to create a personality of a server independent of the hardware and associate it a physical blade giving you the ability to migrate between devices. The easiest way to think of this is similar to a mobile phone. Your physical mobile phone holds no intelligence it’s just a pool of resources and power. The intelligence and personality of your mobile, ie phone number, network, messages etc, all sit on the sim card. You can move this SIM card to any other compatible mobile phone and turn it on and still have the same personality, number and so on. This is the same with UCS the blades being the physical mobile handset and the service profile being the SIM card. Some of the other key areas Cisco developed while designing UCS was the ability to incorporate and manage both blade and rack servers under the same management domain and also the ability to expand your blade environment to a total of 20 chassis working off a single pair of converged switches (Fabric Interconnects). As you can see there are multiple benefits and innovations within UCS with many more I haven’t mentioned. The key point is UCS has been developed as an innovative blade architecture to fix modern day IT challenges with a simplistic architecture.
by Martin Hegarty | Architectural Lead, Comstor
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