If I become hiring manager for a Data Center team, I’m asking candidates whether they have Tetris skills. Anyone who can neatly fill a space with odd-shaped blocks falling at ever-increasing speed can oversee the rack-and-stack activities in my Data Centers.
I talked in my last two posts – on preparing for and then executing a Data Center move – about planning where you want to place your Data Center hardware. That’s a good idea even if you’re not moving your server environment, because how you deploy your equipment affects how efficiently rack space is used, airflow patterns and more. Read More »
Ah, moving day. You’ve spent weeks packing your valuables into boxes and are now fervently hoping your movers treat them like priceless artifacts rather than testing their bounce factor. Sure, said movers are either complete strangers you’ve hired or friends you’ve enticed with beer and pizza, but what could possibly go wrong?
One of the most daunting tasks a Data Center manager can face is a large scale hardware relocation. While today’s technology often allows you to avoid physical moves – you bring new hardware online at your destination, migrate applications there and then decommission the old gear – sometimes you still have to roll up your sleeves and do some heavy lifting.
I invited today Eoin McConnell, who is the Intel Xeon Processor E5 Family Product Line Manager within Intel’s DataCenter and Connected Systems Group, to comment on Cisco Third Generation of Fabric Computing‘s launch.
“Three years ago Cisco timed its entry into the compute side of the data center with the launch of the Intel® Xeon® 5500 series when it introduced Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) to the world. Few outside the walls of Cisco would have suspected that in such a short time Cisco would have grown significantly in this space. It now has nearly 11,000 UCS customers and has risen to No. 3 in MSS in the blade market, according to IDC.
Cisco has partnered with Intel in delivering innovation in the data center around UCS from the beginning. On March 8, 2012, Cisco launched the UCS “M3” server line. The company coordinated this introduction to follow immediately on the heels of Intel’s introduction of the Intel® Xeon® processor E5 family. The three stellar offerings that are available immediately are the Cisco UCS B200 M3 Blade Server, the Cisco UCS C220 M3 Rack Server, and the Cisco UCS C240 M3 Rack Server.
Intel Dylan Larson and Cisco Scott Ciccone had recently a quick conversation about the features and the benefits of this new offering
This third generation sets the mark, and definitely has Cisco delivering new innovation for the cloud. Cisco has always looked to Intel to deliver world-class foundational building blocks that allow the company to innovate. The M3 series will in fact be the first UCS series to implement Intel l® Trusted Execution Technology, which many believe is fundamental to securing cloud architecture.
On the management front we have two new things to talk about:
1) Freeing the server administrators from the tyranny of sheet metal. UCS manager delivers total administrative parity across server form factors, and now supports connectivity for greater quantities of C-Series racks in a UCS system. When you get right down to it, servers are just different combinations of processing, memory, local disk and I/O capability. Some combinations happen to be best as blades, some happen to be best as rack mounts, but we shouldn’t have to care about the shape of the sheet metal when it comes to systems management. With UCS you don’t. Rack and blade all show up together as resources available and managed in a unified, self-integrating system, complete with an XML API. Unified management in UCS lets us finally think outside the box when we deploy and manage compute infrastructure.
2) Multi-UCS Manager: this might be the most important part of this announcement because it takes UCS well over the horizon in terms of scalability. Multi-UCS Manager, as the name implies, is the capability to manage across multiple instances of UCS. This allows for synchronization of service profiles, common pools of unique identifiers and centralized visibility and control across many thousands of servers. Multi-UCS Manager takes the underlying policy based management philosophy of UCS and literally globalizes it, with the capability to manage UCS instances within a single data or around the world. Scheduled for availability in 2HCY12, this is big news and there will be more to come on this topic.
New UCS I/O components:
1) Last year we introduced the 6248 Fabric Interconnect, with unified ports, 40% latency reduction and increased system bandwidth. Here comes its big brother, the 6296, weighing in at 2U, 96 ports, sub-2µs latency and a whopping 2Tb of switching capacity. That means more flexibility and capacity in an architecture that puts all the servers in the system one network hop away from each other, be they blades or racks.
2) A new I/O module for the UCS blade chassis, the 2204XP. This fabric extender doubles the amount of bandwidth that can be provisioned to each chassis to 160Gb.
3) Finally, but probably the most exciting for the server geeks among us: the VIC1240. This is the Cisco Virtual Interface Card now embedded in the new B200 M3 blade server. The VIC 1240 is a dual 20Gb LOM with high performance virtualization that comes standard. An expander module can double the trouble to 4x20Gb. By my math that’s 80Gb to a single slot blade: so how do you use it all? With Adapter-FEX technology, the VIC can carve that pipe into 256 vNICs or vHBAs that can be presented to a bare metal OS. VM-FEX technology takes it a step further, allowing those virtual adapters to be connected directly with virtual machines. The VIC can also be configured to bypass hypervisor switching which offloads that work from your processors and reduces proc utilization up to 30%. Moving virtual switching to the VIC also improves throughput by up to 10% and improves application performance by up to 15%. The idea here is to bring virtual I/O to near-bare metal levels and allow more applications to be virtualized -- which means greater operational agility and service resiliency.
Don’t forget the servers! By the end of this year we’ll have roughly doubled the number of servers in the UCS portfolio. Here’s how we’re kicking things off:
1) Two new rack servers: the C220 M3 and C240 M3. It’s best to compare at the specs here on the product pages, because these are feature loaded and my fingers are tired. They are of course based on Intel’s screaming hot new Xeon E5-2600 processor family, which was announced on Tuesday. We like to say Cisco and Intel are joined at the chip, after all. In addition to bringing new horse power and efficiency gains, the key differentiator for these machines is that they can be managed right alongside B-Series blades in one big happy pool of abstracted server resources, by UCS Manager.
2) The B200 M3. One of the upshots of the UCS architecture is that we’ve pulled all the switches and systems management modules out of the blade chassis. This leaves more room, power and cold air for computing, which manifests itself here in a single-slot blade with 24 DIMM slots and up to three quarter terabytes of RAM. Server architecture, much like life, though, is all about balance. That’s where the Xeon E5-2600 processors and the aforementioned VIC1240 (80Gb of I/O!) come in. The B200 M3 brings an industry leading set of capability to this class of blade and is a fantastic add to the UCS family.
One of the best things about UCS is forward and backward compatibility: all generations of product are fully interoperable which yields strong investment protection. Modular yet unified. The Zen of computing architecture, if you will. In fact, we’re putting a stake in the ground: the dramatically simplified blade chassis Cisco introduced to the industry 2009 will take customers through the end of this decade. Good through 2020…you heard it here first. Just think how young Paul will still look in this video by then :)
My colleagues will post today to talk about how all of this nets out in application performance, and it’s a very good story indeed. In the meantime we’ve posted up some easy to read performance briefs. Also, don’t forget that we have a “view 3D model” link right under the product pictures for all these new additions. If you want to take a close look that’s a fun way to do it. Thanks for coming along.