It’s finally September the 4th which means only one thing, the biggest single day of Cisco UCS announcements since the products launch 5 years ago.
The strapline of the launch is “Computing at every scale” And “Scale” both large and small is certainly the consistent messaging with all the new announcements.
In a previous post (which can be found here) I did quite a comprehensive write up on the Cisco UCS 6324 Fabric Interconnect and Next Gen UCS Chassis, so I won’t go into the technical details again, but today Cisco officially unveil their vision for what they have now branded “UCS Mini”.
As mentioned the theme today is scale, and as we know, a significant percentage of servers in use today are outside of the Data Center, these use cases may be large companies with branch offices, retail outlets, remote data collection points or any use case where the Compute needs to be close to the demand.
And then there is another requirement where a smaller company simply wants a ready assembled and simplified “All-in-One” solution. In either case a more “non Data Center” friendly platform is required.
Cisco refer to these environments as “Edge-Scale” environments, and that is the use case that “UCS Mini” is designed for.
Cisco UCS Mini provides Enterprise Class compute power to these “Edge-Scale” environments without comprising management or visibility as UCS Mini fully integrates with Cisco UCS Central and UCS Director.
OK so that’s the UCS Mini update covered, and at any other time, I’m sure you’d agree that’s a pretty comprehensive and cool update. But in the words of Bachman Turner Overdrive “you ain’t seen nothing yet!”
Cloud Scale Computing
Ok so we have UCS Mini extending the Data Center to the Edge, Then we obviously have the UCS Data Center Core offerings which we are no doubt all familiar with.
But now, and certainly the element of the announcement that I find most interesting comes the “Cloud-Scale” computing environment.
In the Enterprise we traditionally see either a 1 to 1 relationship between a server and an application or in the case of a Hypervisor a single physical server may host many applications.
In the world of “Cloud-Scale” Computing the reverse is true there is a single application utilising many servers. Examples of these Cloud-Scale models are Analytics, E-Gaming, eCommerice to name but a few.
The key with these applications is to be able to scale the compute while at the same time adding minimal overhead and things you don’t necessarily need, like fans, power supplies and peripherals etc… and even elements like storage and I/O if they are not the points of constraint.
I don’t need to tell you how much of this potentially unnecessary “overhead” would be in a rack of 16 1U servers, each with redundant NICs, Fans, Power supplies and so on.
True a Blade solution does alleviate this overhead to some degree, but is still isn’t designed specifically for the use case.
So if both C-Series and B-Series are not perfectly aligned to the task what is?
The answer is the new M-Series Modular Servers.
A single M-Series M4308 Modular Chassis, can give you the same CPU density as the 16 x 1U Rack Mount servers in the example above but with a fraction of the “overhead”, allowing for true Compute Cloud-Scaling and all within a 2RU chassis.
Each 2RU M-Series Chassis can contain up to 8 front loading UCS M142 “Compute Cartridges” and each Compute Cartridge contains 2 independent Compute Nodes, each with a single Intel XEON 4Core E3 processor and 32GB RAM (4 DIMM Slots), with no Network Adapters, No storage and no peripherals. Just raw Compute and Memory.
The Storage and I/O in the back of the Chassis is completely independent from the Compute Cartridges and acts as a shared resource available to them all. This separation is made possible by a innovation called “Cisco System Link Technology” This server “Disaggregation” negates the usual issues of sub-optimal CPU to Storage and IO ratios and allows both to be independently scaled to the requirement.
A 3rd Generation Cisco VIC provides the internal fabric through which all components communicate as well as providing the dual 40Gb external connectivity to the Fabric Interconnects.
The 4 SSD’s allow up to 6.4TB of local storage. which is configured in a RAID group and logically divided amongst the Compute Nodes within the cartridges, which just see a locally attached SCSI LUN.
At FCS it will not be possible to mix current B and C Series UCS servers with the M-Series which will need a dedicated pair of 6200 Fabric Interconnects.
A single UCS Domain can scale to 20 M-Series Chassis along with all the associated Cartridges and Compute Nodes (Giving the grand total of 320 Supported Servers).
At first glance the M-Series may look a bit “Nutanixy” however Nutanix is a “Hyper-converged” architecture rather than a “Disaggregated” Architecture, what’s the difference?
well that a fun post for another day.
NB) Earlier this month Cisco did announce a deal with Simplivity to address the “Hyper-converged” market
A better comparison to the Cisco UCS M-Series would be the HP Moonshot and Cisco are confident that the M-Series has many advantages over Moonshot.
C3000 Rack Storage Server
Lastly but certainly not least is the Cisco C3160, a Stand-a-lone Server completely optimised for storage. The C3160 would be ideal to provide the complimentary storage capacity for the M-Series compute nodes, but could equally provide storage to UCS B-Series Blades and UCS C-Series Rack mounts (up to 240TB per 4U Server at FCS utilising 4TB drives, ).
Where the M-series provides the transactional front end, the C3160 provides the storage for context and content.
Typical use cases for the C3160 in conjunction with the M-Series servers would be a Big Data type application. This combination is also well suited to an Open stack environment with the M-Series serving as the Compute Nodes (Nova) and the C3160 would serve as the Storage node running Cephs.
The management for the C3160 is provided by a Cisco IMC, just like using a stand-a-lone C-Series today, and while I don’t know, I would think UCS Manager integration would be a great and logical future update.
All storage within the C3160 is presented and owned locally by the server (Dual E5-2600v2, with up to 256GB DDR3 RAM at FCS), A mirrored pair of SFF SSD’s are available for an operating system which can then just farm out the storage via the protocol of choice.
A great point about the C3160 is that it is not only 4RU high but at 31.8 inches deep will fit into a standard depth rack.
Anyway, huge update this one, awesome job Cisco! and congratulations, and I for one am certainly looking forward to having a good play with all these new products.
And as a Teaser to next weeks official announcements of the new M4 line-up, I can give you a sneak peek below, but tune in on the 8th September, Same UCS Time, same UCS channel, when we’ll take a look under these covers as there are a few surprises lurking beneath.
Until next time
And take care of that Data Center of yours!