Cisco UCS – Quintessential Fabric-based computing – Part 1
In the last fiscal quarter Cisco UCS reached another milestone with 20,000 (87% Y/Y growth) customers. The (no longer) new data center paradigm of fabric based computing must be resulting in unique customer benefits, and hence the market traction. Gartner defines Fabric based computing as follows:
Fabric-based computing (FBC) is a modular form of computing in which a system can be aggregated from separate (or disaggregated) building-block modules connected over a fabric or switched backplane. Fabric-based infrastructure (FBI) differs from FBC by enabling existing technology elements to be grouped and packaged in a fabric-enabled environment, while the technology elements of an FBC solution will be designed solely around the fabric implementation model.
In this video Gartner analyst Donna Scott and Cisco CTO Paul Perez discuss the adoption of Fabric-based computing and the benefits that customers experience with it.
I will dive deeper into why customers experience benefits with the Cisco Unified Computing System. So lets start with the term “Fabric”. A Lippis report helps us understand the data center fabric. In this tech target article by Michael Brandenburg we get some more background.
Legacy three-tiered data center architecture was designed to service the heavy north-south traffic of client-server applications, while enabling network administrators to manage the flow of traffic. Engineers adopted spanning tree protocol (STP) in these architectures to optimize the path from the client to server and allow for link redundancy. STP worked well to support client-server applications and its traffic flows, but proved inefficient for server-to-server or east-west communications associated with distributed application architecture.
…Server virtualization compounds the problem with spanning tree and the three-tiered architecture.
… data center fabric, a network where traffic from any port can reach any other node with as few latency-inducing hops as possible.
This is eye opening for those of us who live in the server and application world. Bottom line – the data center fabric will result in fewer hops and lower latency for servers communicating with each other in the data center.
So how is this achieved within the Cisco Unified Computing System? This is done with the Fabric Interconnect, which is the I/O hub and the very soul of the system. The Fabric interconnect consolidates three separate networks: LANs, SANs, and high-performance computing networks. The Fabric Interconnect provides consolidated access to both SAN storage and network attached storage (NAS) over the fabric. This means the Cisco Unified Computing System servers can access storage over Ethernet, Fibre Channel, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), and iSCSI. It also lowers costs by reducing the number of network adapters, switches, and cables.
The Cisco UCS Manager, which is the embedded device manger software in the Fabric Interconnect, gives users the ability to slice and dice this big chunk of physical network capacity of the system into much smaller subunits, with the ability to do it flexibly and to change the decisions with software configuration. With Cisco UCS, IT organizations can now deliver dynamic network infrastructure or network services across all types of applications—from applications like Oracle, SAP, three tier J2EEE, and Microsoft to virtualized applications from VMware, Microsoft, and Citrix.
In his blog John McCool ,Cisco SVP and CTO, defines Fabric as “… a highly available, high performance shared infrastructure built with integrated, intelligent compute, storage and network nodes that can be rapidly and simply organized around the requirements of a given workload.” In part 2 of this blog I will detail the automation and management of the fabric-based compute nodes (upto 160) connected to a single pair of UCS Fabric Interconnects.