What are the Benefits of Cisco UCS

August 23, 2016

Benefits of Cisco UCS

By Alex Feigenson, Delivery Architect, Kovarus

As a professional services consultant, I get to see new technologies all the time. Very few of them make a list that I like to call “Things that I would implement for myself if I went back into an operations role.” Cisco Unified Computing System is one of them. With Cisco UCS, gone are the days of having to use an obnoxious firmware update CD or BIOS tool to update servers. You no longer need to configure each BIOS/HBA/boot policy one at a time. Through the creation of policies, pools, and profiles you can automate the entire provisioning of either a blade (B Beries) or rackmount server (C Series). Management for one or many blades or rackmounts is performed through a single pane of glass interface.

The beauty of Cisco UCS is its abstraction of configuration from physical hardware. Cisco accomplishes this by creating a concept of a service profile. Inside that service profile is the personality of a server – from MAC addresses to BIOS settings. This gains you a few key things:

  1. Eliminates inconsistencies

    1. Everything is enforced by policy and pools. This means that one server will be exactly the same as the next – with the exception of consumables such as MAC addresses and WWPN’s.
  2. Eases addition of new equipment

    1. Have a new server? Pop a new blade in and spin up a service profile for it. It’ll flash the firmware to your specified level, burn in your configuration, and you can be installing an operating system within minutes.
  3. Hardware failure

    1. In the old days, if a pizza box failed, you’d have to jump through hoops to get it back online. All those settings need to be reapplied. If it’s a fibre channel HBA, you have to rezone and remap your storage. With UCS, you associate the old service profile with the new blade and you can boot right back up like nothing ever happened.
  4. Hardware upgrades?

    1. Same thing. Pop in a new blade, put the old service profile on it, and you’re off to the races.

Cisco UCS is also a beauty in a rack. Fewer cables, better airflow, and it tends to look less like spaghetti and more like a work of art. You can add additional blades and up to 20 chassis whenever you want. One blade or 160, management is the same – you can scale out even more using Cisco UCS Central.

If you’re a fan of scripting, Cisco makes available several methods including Python and Microsoft PowerShell. The one that I like to use is PowerShell (something that I am more familiar with), and I find their cmdlets to be easy to work with. I’ve written several one liners as well as a script that will do an entire top to bottom configuration of a UCS system based on a spreadsheet.

All of these attributes combine to make what I feel to be the best compute option out there at the moment.  If you need or would like to know more, please do not hesitate to contact us!