With 12,500 Cisco UCS servers, we’re constantly looking for innovative ways to simplify management. We use on-premises Cisco UCS Director and UCS Central servers to manage our blade servers, and Cisco Integrated Management Controller to manage our standalone rack servers. At this point our management software does just about everything we could want, including automating routine tasks and expediting problem resolution.

There is one item on our wish list: a cloud service with the same features as our current software. “Management as a service” would eliminate the need for on-premises management servers. It would also give us the scale to view all of our servers—any model, anywhere in the world—from a “single pane of glass.” That appeals because we wouldn’t need to add application instances as we continue growing.

Server management goes to the cloud

We’re on our way to that vision with Cisco Intersight, a new cloud service. Intersight “claims” supported servers anywhere in the world and lets us generate reports sorted by location, server type, firmware version, etc. We can see all servers on a single pane of glass—from a B200 M5 blade server in Bangalore to a standalone C480 M5 rack server in Amsterdam. The single view makes it much faster to identify all servers that, say, need a firmware upgrade, have a newly discovered security vulnerability, or are due for replacement through our fleet upgrade program.

We’re “customer zero” for Intersight, meaning that we’re trying it out before our customers. So far we’ve claimed 66 Cisco UCS domains and a total of 2500 servers in Intersight, including 154 standalone rack servers. That’s 16% of our fleet. Our commitment to being customer zero helps out our customers because we’ve already done the work to validate deployment guidelines, measure the business value of different use cases, and develop operational best practices.

Intersight outcomes so far

We’re migrating to Intersight gradually as we replace our older servers and firmware that Intersight doesn’t support with newer versions during our normal upgrade processes. Here’s where we’re saving the most time with Intersight so far:

  • Not having to roll up multiple reports to get a global view of server health, etc. Even with just two instances of Cisco UCS Central we’re saving 1-2 hours per report. The more instances you have, the more time you’ll save.
  • Simplifying the management of C-series rack servers—whether they’re standalone or connected to a fabric interconnect. Our administrators can finally manage standalone rack servers using the same interface they use for other servers. And for the first time we can push firmware upgrades to a group of standalone rack servers at the same time, reducing downtime by 25-30%.
  • Avoiding 1-2 hours of downtime during management software upgrades. Intersight supports newly released hardware and firmware as soon as it’s released. No more need to upgrade on-premises management software.
  • Simplifying our budget. We pay a per-server license for Intersight, so we don’t have to guess at infrastructure and operational costs for new management servers.
  • Simplifying TAC support. When TAC discovers a bug, they can log into Intersight to see which of our servers are affected, anywhere in the world. Proactive alerts about potential problems help us resolve them before they affect the business. We’re also saving 30-60 minutes whenever we open a TAC case because don’t have to hunt down files to attach to the case. TAC engineers can get whatever information they need by logging in to Intersight.

Bottom line: our team likes Intersight because they’re spending less time managing infrastructure, giving them more time to run the business and innovate. Learn more in this brief.


What do you want to see from UCS server management in the cloud? Share your thoughts in the comment box.