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.
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.
Every year, the IT industry makes some bold claims about “This is the Year of < insert technology>”. Buzz, hype, conferences, webinars and whitepapers ensue!! Sometimes they come true and sometimes they fall short of expectations. But once all the smoke clears, IT organizations tend to dust themselves off and ask, “So what actually works and what can I use TODAY?”
Amidst all the Cloud Computing technology hype that has been happening over the past couple years, Cisco’s IT organization was faced with a very real (and very common) business challenge -- how to deliver Better IT, Faster IT and More Flexible IT? All of those challenges were faced against the background of exponentially growing user-demands and almost no IT budget growth. Then throw in all those nagging side challenges of securing information, regulatory compliance, and facilities that were running out of space.
Do these problems sound familiar? We suspect that many IT organizations are reaching similar levels of stress from their business and are looking for answers.
If you’re interested in learning how Cisco is solving this problem internally, we highly recommend that you attend this webinar, hosted by Cisco IT. Ken Schroeder (Data Center Architect) will explain how Cisco evolved from a fragmented IT organization to one that is now able to deliver greater empowerment and flexibility back to the business.
Abstract: Join us to learn about Cisco’s CITEIS – Cisco IT Elastic Infrastructure Services – project. Find out firsthand how Cisco deployed an agile, cost effective, flexible and secure private cloud using Cisco Intelligent Automation, Cisco UCS, and VMware technologies. Gain insights from Cisco IT for the planning and development of your own private cloud.
With the opening of the new Cisco Datacenter in RTP, I thought it would be cool to reach out to a few of the guys responsible for the design and ask them a few questions. So, I got together with Jag Kahlon (Cisco IT Architect) and John Banner (Cisco IT Network Engineer) for a quick chat.
Me: What were the primary objectives for the new datacenter?