Curse You, UCS
I’m shaking my fist at the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS). It’s making me let go of a Data Center solution that worked well in the past.
I worked for years on Cisco’s team that designed and managed our Data Centers. In the early 2000s, hardware compaction strongly influenced our physical design. Every few weeks it seemed a different manufacturer debuted a new server smaller and more powerful than its predecessor. We could fit more gear into our cabinets and so found we had a lot more cabling to manage. This was especially challenging in legacy Data Centers with cables routed below the under-floor plenum. More cabling meant less airflow.
My team solved the cable management issue by creating network substations. Rather than running cables from each server cabinet location in the room to a main network row, we ran them to a nearby substation and then a lesser number of cables from the substations to the main row.I liked our substation solution. It meant shorter cable runs, smaller patch fields and improved airflow, which saved us money in both cabling and energy consumption. By pre-wiring the electrical conduits, pre-wiring the structured cabling and pre-patching the network substations, new hardware could also be set up quickly. Someone could pick up a server from the receiving dock and have it operational in a matter of hours. Life was good.
Then in 2009 came the Unified Computing System, consolidating compute, network, storage access and virtualization. Cable quantities plummeted. Virtual machines per device increased. Cisco IT now uses UCS to provision Data Center resources to clients in minutes. My clever, elegant solution has become obsolete. UCS uses so few cables that the substations are superfluous. Using them just occupies extra floor space and adds cost. Even with pre-patched substations, no conventional physical deployment can be provisioned as quickly.
It’s hard to let go of what worked well in the past. UCS has arrived in a big way, though, and is winning more converts all the time. Cisco is now third in the worldwide x86 blade server market according to the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker, May 2011. I can only imagine how prevalent UCS will be next year.
If you haven’t installed UCS in your server environment yet, can I interest you in some gently used networking cabinets and patch cords? They served me well but I don’t need them anymore.