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Cisco UCS Servers, Blade Server Chassis and TCO, part 2

October 10, 2011 at 9:52 am PST

Cisco UCS Servers and Blade Server Evolution, part 1, as the title suggests, discussed blade server evolution and why Cisco UCS is a game changer.  Now let’s talk about what the implications are for blade server TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) and how Cisco Unified Computing System scales vs. legacy blade architectures.

Blade Server TCO and Scale

Scale is the crux of the problem that has historically been the barrier for blade servers to deliver on their initial promise.  Scale for I/O.  Scale for Servers.  Scale for Management.  Cisco identified these shortfalls in the traditional legacy blade architecture and came to the marketplace with an innovative, game changing redefined architecture – Cisco UCS.

As discussed in “part 1”, to move the bar for blade chassis, we to better consolidate I/O, management and scale.  Enter Cisco UCS.  Deliver everything at scale: servers and I/O and blade chassis and management etc.  Deliver a new design, rather than retreading an old dead end chassis ‘building block’ design.

Efficiency and Scale by Design

The requisite new design is what Cisco delivered. Cisco UCS is a variable chassis count, variable server count, variable I/O capacity, smart scaling architecture.

Figure 1 is the Cisco design, a converged I/O (FCoE – lossless FC and Enet combined) that scales.  It provides easy, efficient infrastructure scaling across:  multiple chassis, multiple servers, racks, rows and yes, it even includes the integration of rack servers into the solution.

Figure 1: Cisco UCS architecture – 10 x 8 blade chassis = 80 blade servers, 20 cables (add more I/O by simply adding cables – easy scaling)

Figure 2 is a Non-Converged legacy blade chassis I/O architecture. More = more… of everything.  More chassis to hold more blades is OK, that makes sense.  But more Switches?  More cables?  More points of Management?  More complexity?  Not too good.

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Cisco UCS Servers and Blade Server Evolution, part 1

October 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm PST

Arguably the place to begin a Cisco UCS blade server journey would be with “Why Blade Servers”.  ‘Blades’ are cool.  There was “Blade Runner” (a cult classic) and the Wesley Snipes “Blade” movies, several TV series with ‘blade’ in the name, on and on; but for data centers and servers?  Why blades?  Where is the Blade Server TCO & ROI benefit that drives business decisions and therefore innovation and how do blade servers / chassis get there?

Before:

Blade servers have been around since about year 2000 and arguably came about as a way to make data center footprints smaller and reduce power consumption (reduced TCO).  Nothing new here for blade enthusiasts.  Rack servers were taking up more and more space and power in data centers.  The concept of blades was brilliant, insightful and simple. Take as many common rack delivered functionalities (services) as possible, and package them together for delivery to a fixed group of servers.  The easy targets for this were server power, cooling, and I/O (well, some I/O functions).  To look at it another way, a blade chassis takes a data center rack with servers, I/O cables and switches, then shrinks them into a ‘building block unit’.  Once you have the ‘unit’, put a single sheet metal wrapper around everything and voila, a blade chassis.  Overly simplistic I know, but a close enough visual.  If you want a step-by-step evolution, Sean McGee (a colleague of mine here at Cisco) did a darn good overview The "Mini-Rack" Approach To Blade Server Design.

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