At some point, every data center has to migrate a complete server identity between two servers. This could be driven by maintenance needs, server upgrades or DR/HA and SLA requirements. For DR/HA, Business Continuity requirements mandate that this be done as quickly as possible, which means automation is critical to drive time to productivity restoration. True automation equals fewer steps and faster implementation, with the smallest possibility for error. This is more than just setting up a similar server with the same BIOS and firmware and then doing a lot of manual work requiring multiple administrative domains – compute, network and storage. I’m talking about QoS, vNIC / vHBA setting, storage access and ownership transfers, etc., the whole enchilada, all delivered in an automated repeatable processby design not by accident.
Not surprisingly, Cisco UCS with UCS Manager does the job -- fast, complete and in full. What may be surprising is that Cisco UCS Manager enables you to do this transfer not just from blade server to blade server, you can also do it from blade server to rack server. UCS Manager comes with and is embedded on the UCS Fabric Interconnects. I want to emphasize that there is no additional charge for UCS Manager, which is an important consideratin when you look at other companies’ multiple toolsets, agents and databases, most of which carry an additional cost, and which are required to equal UCS Manager functionality. UCS Manager architecture does not require a separate management server which other designs typically require.
The very best part of the entire activity is that the full migration of the server identity (enabled by Cisco SingleConnect technology) takes just 6 initial steps with UCS Manager; the rest is all about how we deliver on the promise of automation. UCS Manager lets you use and specify 127+ different server identity parameters including:
48 BIOS Settings
Host BIOS Firmware
Hdwr NIC Teaming (fabric failover)
FC Adapter & Storage Controller Firmware
BIOS & Disk Scrub Actions
Dynamic vNICs (VM FEX)
NIC and HBA Adapter Settings
vHBA WWPN & WWNN Assignment
HBA FC SAN Membership,
NIC Receive Rate & NIC MTU size
FC & iSCSI Boot Parameters
PCIe Bus Scan Order and PCIe Device Slot Placement
And Much Much More…….
The above all sounds good. Now we need to see ‘proof of delivery’. Below are the links to a white paper by Principled Technologies that are the real point of this blog – complete (not partial) migration of a server identity from a blade server to a rack server.
The real fun is to watch the accompanying video below. See for yourself how much time it takes in an apples to apples server identity migration from a blade to a rack server. Once you take a look at the video (the paper on the right has the full details of the testing), you will find taking a UCS Test Drive worthwhile.
The ability of Cisco UCS server to manage both blade and rack servers with a single tool is UCS Manager. Cisco took a unique approach to computing and focused on the common point of interaction, the fabric. Servers don’t operate in isolation. They are part of a total environment that at the minimum encompasses servers, networking, management and storage – a Fabric Based Infrastructure . Cisco’s comprehensive and efficient architecture is the key to why customers worldwide are rapidly adopting UCS.
For information on how UCS and UCS Manager integrate with a wide variety of our leading management partners follow this link UCS Manager Ecosystem Partners, and for interoperability with other major systems management tools please see the UCS Interoperability page.
Deploying new servers is a routine task in data centers. Whether it is tied to server refreshes, net new compute initiatives or to an expansion of existing compute capacity, adding new servers can be a time consuming activity for IT personnel. This server deployment process has historically been very manual, with many solutions requiring:
Multiple tools or scripts
Repeated human interaction by the server team throughout the deployment process
Coordination of activities across server, networking and storage administrators for every server deployed.
All of these add to complexity, increase time to production, increase costs, and unavoidably increase the potential of human error.
What is needed is a dependable, repeatable process that automates and streamlines server deployment activities. This lets IT staff to devote their time to more value added activities which improves operations and productivity, yielding a much better TCO picture. Automated, fast, efficient, scalable management and infrastructure -- this is where Cisco UCS and UCS Manager excel.
The efficiency of Cisco UCS server deployment is tied to UCS Manager. Cisco took a unique approach to computing and focused on the common point of interaction, the fabric. Servers don’t operate in isolation. They are part of a total environment that at the minimum encompasses servers, networking, management and storage – a Fabric Based Infrastructure . Cisco’s comprehensive and efficient architecture is the key to why customers worldwide are rapidly adopting UCS.
This detailed paper (below) does a side by side “time to deploy” evaluation of the Cisco UCS B200 M3 and the HP BL460c Gen8. The strength of UCS and UCS Manager for automation is clear in the ease of use and lack of complexity.
Below is a new time lapse side-by-side video -- B200 M3 is 77% Faster Blade Deployment vs. HP BL460c Gen8.This new video (July 2013) illustrates the Business Advantage of the Cisco UCS Unified Compute, Unified Fabric and Unified Management -- Cisco’s Unified Data Center. Comparing this video to the one we did for the B200 M2 is 47% Faster Blade Deployment vs. HP BL460c G7 (May 2011), Cisco UCS Manager has shaved a full minute off the deployment time for two blade servers and still only takes 14 steps to set up the automated process. HP’s time to deploy increased dramatically and is still very serial nature with lots of manual inputs.
A good segue to Fabric-Based Infrastructure is Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Blade Servers (March 2012), by Andrew Butler and George Weiss. To fully understand the tie in with Fabric-Based Infrastructure I suggest reading the section on Cisco UCS. Their observations are important because they tie directly to the subject of this blog. You will also get a better feel for why Cisco UCS is having such rapid customer adoption worldwide.
The emphasis for Fabric-Based Infrastructure is delivering value-add functionality that enables data centers to operate more efficiently and cost effectively. A good place to start is by looking at this Gartner report by George Weiss and Donna Scott -- Fabric-Based Infrastructure Enablers and Inhibitors Through the Lens of User Experiences (April 2012). In this short research note, George and Donna go into the key drivers and reasons for the FBI architecture and the benefits that their clients have seen. My take away for the key benefits of Fabric-Based Infrastructure are:
OpEx and CapEx savings
Increased VM density
Time-To-Deploy reduced from months to hours via automation and standards implementation;
Reduce cost and complexity and improve agility;
Improved resiliency by recreating servers and connectivity in minutes using profiles and templates
While reading about a technology innovation is helpful, actually listening to experts discuss the architecture and give their individual perspectives can be more so.
I suggest that you make time to listen to this 34 minute video with featured guest Donna Scott (a VP and Distinguished Analyst at Gartner) and Paul Perez (VP and CTO for the Data Center Business Group at Cisco Systems) -- Fabric-Based Infrastructure (FBI) in Today’s Data Center. Donna looks at the motivations and impact of customers moving to a Fabric Based Infrastructure with an eye toward what is important to adopters. Then Paul discusses Cisco UCS innovations and how they let FBI adopters achieve their goals. If you would like, you can download a podcast of the video from theCisco Analyst Reports page.
From my perspective the truly compelling part of this story is the extent to which Cisco UCS makes the promise of Fabric-Based Infrastructure a reality, while emphasizing safety, security and the risk reduction. These are critical considerations in today’s IT environment. Cisco continues to be a key innovator in data center technology and is continuing to grow from strength to strength, delivering value and benefit for your long term application solution needs.
Below is how I think a Fabric-Based Infrastructure should look. Of course I am predisposed. Cisco UCS architecture provides the ability to define and manage over 120 different server identity parameters via service profile templates, using a native tool with Roles Based Access Controls and across geographies. UCS enables you to have a distributed environment that is centrally managed. Your admins can also use CLI, custom designed tools / scripts, or third party tools as they choose to meet the needs of their current management structure.