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?
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.
I make no bones about it I love the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS). Yes, you’re reading a Cisco Blog…so you’d expect nothing less, but understand I came to love the system long before I was ever a Cisco employee. In fact it’s the reason I’m here – well that and the paycheck. You can read a bit about my “conversion” here: Something to Believe In. Or if you’d prefer to watch me talk about the UCS as a GE employee take a peek here
A picture really is worth a thousand words. I found this out many times over doing booth duty at IDF and then Oracle Open World recently. We had the UCS Manager Platform Emulator running at IDF, but not at OOW, and being able to actually show people the flexibility, breadth and depth of control you get with the UCS approach to management made a notable difference in the tenor and seriousness of the conversations.
You can download the Platform Emulator from the Cisco Developer Network (CDN) and play with it to get a feel for how UCS Manager is organized. But I wanted to give a nod to the valuable public service provided by Kevin Houston over at BladesMadeSimple: he’s created a YouTube video using the Platform Emulator that walks you through the information and tools available to the administrator(s) in UCS Manager, including the creation of service profiles, templates and pools. It’s definitely long, but thanks to the soundtrack I found myself wanting to samba as I watched (not that I have the slightest idea how to samba; fortunately nobody was around). Simply put, it may well be the coolest 15-minute tech video you’ll see all week.