Cisco has announced some major products and updates this morning around their UCS product line. These announcements are not only just hardware and software but they also show how Cisco is seeing the changing data center landscape and realizing where they need to compete. As a note i will be updating this as i get more information, as well as deep diving on each topic shortly. I suggest you follow me on twitter @ck_nic or subscribe to the blog to see when i’ve updated this or added deep dives.
Cisco has realized that the single monolithic data center is not always the norm today. Companies are moving towards more Remote Site or Multi-Data center environments. In my opinion this is something that has been happening for years, but only recently has accelerated. With new technologies such as VXLAN, OTV and huge advances in the virtualization world, there is no need to build a single giant data center. Personally i’m seeing companies building multiple smaller and more efficient data centers, or utilizing space in remote offices or shared space. In addition the push for the “Internet of Things” is only going to accelerate that, as computing power will need to be closer to the edge. In addition, Cisco also has recognized the “app-centric” data center and cloud model that most of the vendors are moving towards, especially around the SDN and automation areas. Cisco has announced several new items that speak to this.
First, Cisco has announced the UCS Mini. This is a UCS blade chassis with the Fabric Interconnects in the back of the chassis instead of top of rack. Cisco is positioning this as “Edge-Scale Computing”. They see the UCS Mini being deployed in Remote offices or smaller datacenters where the expected growth is small and the power and cooling requirements need to be smaller then the current UCS line. For WAY more information I suggest you read my earlier post relating to the UCS Mini here. I have updated it with some new information gained in the last week or so.
UCS Director Updates
Secondly, Cisco has updated its UCS Director Software to be more useful to more people. The UCS Director software will now allow an administrator to automate and monitor not only UCS equipment but be able to work with Nexus products as well. UCS Director will also be able to push out ACI configurations to the new Nexus 9k product line, here. UCS Director has also introduced what it calls “Application Containers”. These will allow configuration to be done from the “Application Level”. What this means is you will be able to create networking and compute resources for a given application. Cisco is stating that this is a very good way to simplify private-cloud deployment. Finally, UCS Director has provided Hadoop integration into the product. There is now a very easy way to deploy and monitor Hadoop clusters on UCS hardware. This is something i’d like to see more of, personally.
UCS M-Series Servers
Cisco is announcing a new line of servers today that are very different then just about any other server in the market today. Cisco’s M-Series servers are modular servers that can pack 16 individual servers into a single 2U chassis. This is accomplished by creating “Compute Cartridges” that consist of CPU & Memory only. Each cartridge contains two seperate servers with a single Intel Xeon E3 processor and four DIMM slots. All of the cartridges share 4 SSDs that serve iSCSI boot LUNs to each compute node, as well as all Power supplies, Fans & Outbound Network & SAN connections. These servers support the new VIC 1300 mentioned below, that means these can be uplinked to a UCS Fabric Interconnect as well. Now, these servers are NOT designed to run your typical virtualization or bare-metal OSs. These are designed more for a lightweight OS, such as linux. Cisco sees these being deployed in large numbers for uses like, BigData or other “Scale-Out” applications, online gaming, and ecommerce. Now there has been a lot of talk about compasions to both HPs Moonshot servers as well as to the offerings of Nutanix. These are a bit different then both. Nutanix is a “Hyper-Converged” platform where it uses its own filesystem, and does a lot of neat tricks to distribute things across the nodes, the compute nodes become part of the virtual environment more then normal servers. The M-Series is “Disaggregated” it uses what Cisco calls its “System Link” technology to separate the components making them more modular. HP’s Moonshot is somewhat similar to the M-Series in that it used “server cartridges” however they are mostly Atom based processors, and still have some other hardware in the cartridges. Cisco’s is all full Intel Xeon x86 processors.
UCS C3000 Series Servers
Cisco is not only releasing a compute heavy server but also a storage heavy one. Cisco has announced the C3160 Rack Storage Server. It is a 4u server that is capable of holding up to 360TB of storage space. It is a single server just like any other, it has two processor sockets and a LSI 12GB SAS Contoller that is connected to the disks. Cisco is targeting this server at BigData or Web Applications that need a very large, fast central storage repository. Cisco has provided some examples where it uses both the new M-Series and the new 3160 together in various designs. It has mentioned both BigData and gaming services where the compute is distributed across an array of M-Series with all of the backend storage being hosted on the C3160’s.
New M4 Servers & VIC released
Cisco has announced the newest line of its blade and rackmount servers, the B200 M4, C220 M4 & C240 M4. These servers take the advantage of the latest Intel processors as well a DDR 4 RAM, with up to 1.5TB of RAM per server. Cisco is not introducing any configuration constraints that some other vendors have been doing. Cisco has said will support the new 18-core Intel processor, when released. This means you could get 36 full cores, 72 if you count hyper-threading in each blade!!! Cisco has also announced a new VIC 1300 to go along with the newer servers. This VIC is native 40gb capable. However until the new FIs and IOMs are released the card will run at 4x 10gb. For the PCIe based version the VIC have QSFP ports on it which will support both breakout cables as well as a special adapter that will convert 40gb to 10gb. Its nice that these VIC are released to “future proof” hardware for when we see more 40gb switches, however i am a bit bummed we didn’t see a 40gb FI.
Overall there has been a lot of things announced and lot of information to be digested. I have seen some pictures of the new hardware and hope to get to play with it soon. Expect some deep dives to be written about the hardware and my experience with it.