The Cisco UCS Command Line: Creating “Server” & “Uplink” Ports From Your Command Center

By | Cisco, How To | No Comments

Using the command line on the UCS fabric interconnects is a bit different than your standard IOS or NXOS command line. I had the opportunity to configure a new UCS system from the console and wanted to share the experience with our subscribers. The configuration snippets below highlight the steps you would take to get through your initial configurations.

1. Create “Server Ports” on ports 5, 6, 7, 8 on Fabric Interconnect A:

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A couple of notes – You have to scope to “eth-server” in order to configure Server Ports. After each create command, the CLI puts an asterisk on the command line. That means there is a transaction that needs to be committed to the system configuration. The Server Port will not be created until you use the “commit-buffer” command.

2. Create “Uplink Ports” on ports 1 & 2 and set them to 1 Gbps on Fabric Interconnect A:

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Note – you need to scope into “eth-uplink”, to create the Uplink Ports.

3. Create “Uplink Ethernet Port Channel” named portchannel1 on Fabric Interconnect A:

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Note – still scoped into “eth-uplink”.

4. Add “Uplink Ports” to “Uplink Ethernet Port Channel” named portchannel1 on Fabric Interconnect A:

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Note – scoped into “port-channel 1” to add the Uplinks Ports.

5. Verify portchannel1 is operational on Fabric Interconnect A:

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And wah-lah: now you have successfully created “Server” and “Uplink” ports using the Cisco UCS Command Line from your own “command center”. If you have any further questions or want to learn more please email me:

Photo Credit: soundman1024

Cisco UCS: On Trial in the Court of Public Opinion (and the Verdict Is?)

By | Cisco, UCS | No Comments

There have been some rumors floating around regarding the viability of Cisco’s UCS in the market and whether Cisco will continue with it.

My take is that we are talking about a generation 1.5 product and as anyone in technology knows, newcomers to a vertical always have to make a land grab, even if you are positioned as Cisco, a monster in the switching vertical. The question at hand is:

Does UCS differentiate itself as a product in the market?

I can honestly say even the authors of the imminent end of UCS concede that it does. Once Cisco is confident in the market share, which in my opinion is happening at a frightening pace, we will see UCS prices (and Cisco margins) begin to rise. Frankly, I don’t think Cisco field reps know how to sell this yet—again, yet. Once they get the hang of it, Dell is going to find themselves in real trouble in the blade space.

Also, it is a mistake to think of UCS as a server platform: the true beauty of it is how it ties server and network physical management into a single construct with the modularity and flexibility to adapt and upgrade as the standards in both spaces evolve (again, at a frightening pace). The competitors’ management tools usually come at a cost and still do not offer the same abilities of the tools that Cisco is giving away for free. And finally, I would be interested to see how much Nexus has been sold à la carte vs. inside the UCS. I would consider UCS a success for Cisco if only due to the remarkable Nexus footprint it generated, as Nexus is now positioned as the obvious future of Cisco.

I don’t think UCS is going anywhere but into more data centers. Granted, I am sold on the technology more than the business angle, but IT folks are generally willing to pay more for the best and most scalable tools out there. Oddly enough, today with UCS, they don’t have to.

Photo Credit: steakpinball

Cisco UCS Test Drive With IDS

By | Cisco, Data Loss Prevention, Storage, VMware | No Comments

Last week, the folks here at IDS and the knowledgeable experts at Cisco teamed up for a test drive of their latest rollout: the UCS Blade server. The feedback we received was overwhelming in response to both the capacities of the UCS, as well as the care and attention to detail that went into the development of the server (which makes sense, since Cisco is at the top of the industry in spending top dollar on research and development). The detail-oriented mindframe when developing the UCS is what differentiates it from any other server on the market to date.

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We began our tour at Cisco’s brand-spanking-new Rosemont offices, where we were in a state of awe as soon as we stepped over the threshold to be greeted by their demo data center. Everything about the layout of their offices is centered around the customer experience. Touring their facility offered a look into their awesome array of demo rooms, product displays and classrooms for product demonstrations. Distractions abounded as we mosied into their UCS demo classroom.

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We proceeded into an informational session about the UCS, where the following points were emphasized about the blade server:

1. Embedded management.
2. Unified fabric computing.
3. Expanded memory.
4. Virtualized adaptor.
5. Stateless servers and service profiles.

Per our tour moderator, Cisco’s Jon Ebmeier, Consulting Systems Engineer, overall the UCS handles more traffic per blade than any other server: prime example – an HP needs 38 blades, while the UCS can take on the same workload with only 19 blades. Another point that was highlighted is the chassis’ flexibility in working with the existing software in your data center. This flexibility also leads us into the UCS’s propensity towards functioning optimally within a fully virtualized environment (check out our upcoming event that revolves around 100% virtualization).

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While we viewed the actual blade server, the customers’ and engineers’ feedback I received was immense. Below are some of the highlights from actual IT managers and IDS engineers:

  • “The organization of this interface is the best I’ve ever seen.”
  • “This would make my data center exponentially easier to manage.”
  • “From a cost and real estate/space perspective the UCS can handle a lot more with less.”
  • “The Catalina chip within the blade makes 4 memory slots appear as 1 to the server, thereby cutting down on the amount of physical servers needed at any time.”
  • “In the customer example we heard from Cisco that 308 concurrent VMs were running on one server, this is unbelievable and amazing, I’d love to see what the UCS could do for my data center.”
  • “Huge network traffic ability.”
  • “Flexibility in losing a blade and still being able to move data while not going offline.”

Overall, we had an amazing experience at Cisco. Learning about the specifics around the UCS server was definitely beneficial for everyone involved. I invite you to check out the in the field interview I conducted post-tour with our engineer, David Langley:


Photo Credits: idsdata

Cisco UCS Platform: Would A Blade Server Chassis By Any Other Name Smell As Sweet? #datacenter

By | Cisco, Networking, Storage, UCS, VMware | No Comments

When a familiar brand such as Nike or McDonald’s releases a new product, an amazing thing occurs which has absolutely nothing to do with what they are selling. These companies have such a strong brand name relationship with the consumer, that the product is immediatly assigned value. Prospective customers are open to at least trying it, while loyal customers have an auto-reaction to purchase (Apple anyone?).

This is due in no small measure to the apex marketing departments that these companies employ, which deliver results time after time. I would speculate that nine out of ten folks would immediately have a high level of confidence in the new product after only seeing a couple of well lit pictures, accompanied by the product’s jingle or tag line all crammed in under the thirty seconds allotted by the normal network commercial slot.

You know what industry that tenth guy is in?
Information Technology.

The fellow members of this exclusive group are adrift in a sea of product knowledge doubt. We want to touch it. We want not only to see it work, but work in our shop. It seems the moment we hear about a new product or idea we immediately figure out why it WON’T work.

This is obviously a survival mechanism. In the IT world we have all been burned by the silver tongued, snake oil swindling technology salesman. We put our reputation on the line for a piece of hardware and software that just didn’t deliver, which immediately means that our users feel that WE didn’t deliver. Never again…

Recently, Cisco released their new Unified Computing System (UCS). While Cisco has certainly made its fair share of false steps in the past, their track record still holds up as better than most. However, I was not prepared for the level of doubt by the teams I have met with right out of the gate. What really caught me by surprise was the amount of urban legend surrounding the product. Most folks simply consider it a new blade chassis. Technically true, but one could also say a fire truck is just another truck. Yet, not all speculation was bad. I have also heard good things that aren’t true, such as the ability to spread a single VM to multiple blades.

Trucks: One carries a dalmation along. The other only has room for one.

What intrigues me most about the platform isn’t a single feature of the solution; it’s how it all comes together. IP KVMs are common, but in the UCS it is included. Being able to lay down a server hardware “profile” between generations of blades makes expansion more straightforward and reduces opportunities for error. The network in the chassis itself looks like a line card in the Nexus switches that sits on top, simplifying management. The list just keeps on going.

Maybe that’s the issue. We are expecting a single feature to divide the new Cisco solution from the sea of server chassis platforms out there, but instead it is dozens of nuances that really deserve a deeper delving into Cisco’s UCS details.

So I finally had enough and asked Cisco to do a “dispel the rumors” seminar for a rather large group of customers who wanted to get to the bottom of this.

Not only will we view the slides, but our “test drive” of the UCS will center mainly around seeing how the management interface works and the chassis itself. All questions will be answered and all myths exposed. Personally, I am most interested in recieving the feedback after the event to hear what folks were most surprised to learn; however, overall, I think the event will be awesome for everyone, including me. The more time I spend with the platform, the more my knowledge of it’s innerworkings increase: I can see how it’s not all about the server blade, but instead about the integration points to the network, storage and especially VMware.

Photo Credits via Flickr: robin_24, Squiggle and wonderbjerg

Announced @ Cisco Partners Summit: Advanced Architecture Specializations & New Cloud Certifications

By | Cisco, Cloud Computing, Virtualization | No Comments

I had the opportunity to spend a few days in New Orleans while I attended the Cisco Partners Summit this week.  I visited Bourbon Street for the first time (I’m not going into those stories), and was introduced to some pretty good food too!

The real reason I was there was to find out what Cisco is up to with their Partner and Technology Specializations. There were quite a few large changes, especially with the introduction of Architecture Based Specializations:

Advanced Borderless Networks Architecture Specialization:
Allows for design within any sized business. Some features that were upgraded were the Cisco Catalyst switch, Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance firewall and compact Cisco ASR 1000 Series router. For smaller businesses, new entry-level 802.11n wireless access points were introduced. A great example of of one of these technologies is the Cisco AnyConnect Client.

Advanced Collaboration Architecture Specialization:
Has three specific roles outlined and, when attained, increases security and has advanced data storage. Delivers any content type: video, voice and data for interaction.

Advanced Data Center Architecture Specialization:
The new UCS ATP. This has a wide variety of qualifications that demonstrates the Partners ability to architect a Cisco data center, based on ACE, Nexus, MDS & UCS C and B-Series servers.

Advanced Unified Fabric Technology:
This will take the place of the existing Data Center Networking Infrastructure Specialization & Data Center Storage Networking Specialization. Partners that currently hold the DCNI/DCSN will need to update to the new specialization within the year.

Advanced Unified Computing Technology:
Aimed to validate Partners ability to design and sell UCS B-series & C-series systems. This is perfect for Partners that have no existing Cisco certifications, and want to start selling C & B Series.

As systems become more complex and integrated, it’s great to know your partners are able to produce a complete solution. This also aligns nicely with  John Chambers’ (President of Cisco) keynote message about how Architectures are the future (the “Cloud” word came up quite a bit too).

Did someone say Cloud?

Yes, Cisco also announced a set of Cloud-specific certifications designed to identify what Cisco believes to be the three Cloud opportunities:

Cloud Builder – Partners that build the infrastructures
Cloud Provider – Partners that deliver different cloud solutions
Cloud Services Reseller – Partners that resell cloud services on their own infrastructure

Cisco believes the Cloud opportunity to be around 172B in 2013. So, if you want a piece, go get your cert on—I know I will be!

Photo credit: fesja via Flickr

7.5 Reasons Why I Like the Nexus 5000 Series Switches

By | Cisco, Networking | No Comments

1) vPC – Virtual Port Channels

A Port Channel based connectivity option that allows downstream switches and hosts to connect to a pair of Nexus 5000 vPC peer switches as if they were one switch. This allows the host or switch to use two or more links at full capacity.

2) Copper SFP+ Twinax cable

A low power and cost effective option to connect servers and FEX modules to the Nexus 5000. Twinax cables are available in 1,3,5 and now 7 and 10-meter lengths.

3) Nexus 2000 fabric extenders – FEX

These are like “remote line cards” that attach and are managed by the Nexus 5000. 24 and 48 port 1 Gbps FEX’s are available, and so are 32 port 1/10 Gbps FEX’s. These can be connected to the Nexus 5000 with SFP+ Copper Twinax cable, and for longer runs, SFP+ optics.

4) Expansion Modules

Each Nexus switch has one or two open expansion modules. These can accommodate a variety of modules, including additional 10 gig ports, 4 and 8 Gbps native fiber channel ports, and even a mix of both.

5) The new Nexus 5548

Up to 48 10 Gig ports & 960 Gbps throughput in a 1U chassis!

6) Unified Fabric

LAN and SAN on the same layer 2 Ethernet. This allows full SAN/LAN redundancy with just two cables per server. Great for ESX servers, which can use many network, and fiber channel cables.

7) NX-OS

Cisco’s highly resilient & modular operating system, which is based on Cisco’s rock-solid MDS 9000 SAN-OS.

And for the that extra .5 reason why I like the 5000 series switch, drumroll please…

7.5) It’s Silver!