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Table of Contents
1 Document Information 3
1.1 Key Contacts 3
1.2 Document Control 3
2 Document Purpose 4
3 Why should I care about Cisco UCS? 5
4 Cisco UCS Components 6
5 Topology Diagram 13
6 The 5 Karate Moves of Cisco UCS 14
7 Vblock 19
8 What to look out for that could indicate there is a
potential UCS opportunity? 21
9 Pre-empting Customer Concerns. 22
10 Cisco UCS vs. The Competition 23
10.1 Cisco UCS Vs HP Bladesystem Matrix 23
10.2 Cisco UCS Vs IBM BladeCentre 26
11 Glossary of Terms 27
Appendix A B Series UCS Blade Servers 29
Appendix B C Series UCS Servers 30

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1 Document Information
1.1 Key Contacts
Name Role Contact Details
Colin Lynch Senior Technical Consultant colin.lynch@computacenter.com
1.2 Document Control
Contents Details
Document Name The CC Guide to UCS (formally the Dummies Guide / AKA the little book of UCS)
Client Strictly Computacenter Internal use only
Version Number V0.1 Intial Draft
V0.2 Quality Reviewed by Peter Green
V0.3 UCS vs The Competition and Vblock chapters added
V0.4 Peer Reviewed by David Roberts and Darren Franklin
V0.5 Updated to include UCSM 1.4 (Balboa)
Document Version Date 7
February 2011
Author Colin Lynch
Classification Draft Internal
Document References
Quality Review By Peter Green (v0.2)
Peer Review By
Template Tempo - Document Template.dotm Version 2.32
This document and the information it contains is confidential and remain the property of Computacenter (UK)
Ltd. The document may not be reproduced or the contents transmitted to any third party without the express
consent of Computacenter (UK) Ltd.
In the absence of any specific provision, this document has consultative status only. It does not constitute a
contract between Computacenter and any other party. Furthermore, Computacenter does not accept liability for
the contents of the document, although it has used reasonable endeavours to ensure accuracy and correct
Unless expressly forbidden, Computacenter may transmit this document via email or other unencrypted
electronic means.

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2 Document Purpose

This document has purposely been written in an informal manner to keep within the spirit of
the title.
The purpose of this document is to provide a simplified overview of the Cisco Unified
Computing System (UCS). If you would like a greater level of detail on any aspect of Cisco
UCS or have any questions please contact the author colin.lynch@computacenter.com
The intended audience should have a basic knowledge of data communications but no in
depth technical knowledge in any particular area is required.
Hopefully there is something in this document for everyone including:
 Techys who wish to get an overview of what the Cisco UCS is.
 Sales Specialists who require an overview of the technology.
 Salespeople who need to know how and where best to position Cisco UCS (Just skip
the “Techy” bits)
By the end of this document you should be able to talk sensibly about Cisco UCS and
understand ALL the key concepts and differentiators* that make Cisco UCS such a valuable
proposition for our customers. All these key points have been condensed into the “5 Karate
moves of UCS”.
The UCS family can be divided into two groups:
1. The “C series” which is a rack mount form factor – (see Appendix B)
2. The “B series” which is a blade architecture – (see Appendix A)
This document will primarily reference the B Series although most concepts discussed are
the same for both.

* Hopefully this is the last time that a fifteen letter word appears in this document.

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3 Why should I care about Cisco UCS?
Good question!
There are several reasons as to why you need to care about Cisco UCS.

 Cisco UCS represents the next generation of Data centre technology
 There are significant OPEX savings to be had by deploying Cisco UCS
 Computacenter have partnered with Cisco to make Cisco UCS a very
competitive and compelling offering to our customers.

The details of this deal can be seen in the video presentation by Simon Walsh and Cisco on


In addition to the above our customers would and should expect us to care about UCS. Put
simply Computacenter can’t afford not to care about Cisco UCS.
As pointed out to us in the Lord of the rings films “The world is changing” and this is
especially true in the data centre, and those who don’t adapt to these changes will be
analogue people in a digital age.
There is scarcely an IT article that comes out these days that does not evangelise about
cloud computing, greener data centres, higher consolidation and virtualisation in the data
centre, whilst at the same time driving up data centre efficiency, driving down costs and
increasing availability.
Cisco UCS was developed from the ground up to address all of the above concerns and
Put simply the Cisco Unified Computing System is a next-generation data centre platform that
unites compute, network, storage access, and virtualization into a cohesive system designed
to reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) and increase business agility by unifying all
components at the natural point of aggregation which is the network.
Cisco UCS is certainly not a “Me too” offering from Cisco with regards to getting involved in
the data centre systems business, but an opportunity brought on by the inflection point in the
market, driven by 10Gb Ethernet. As we will cover during the course of this “book” Cisco UCS
changes the rules which have thus far governed and to a degree limited the data centre.
The Unified Computing System answers a simple question – “what would you do if you could
build a system with no preconceptions”.
That same question has been asked many times over the years by Cisco. The results have
given us data centre legends such as the Catalyst 6500 line of switches, the Cisco MDS
storage line, as well as the current Nexus 7000/5000/2000/1000V family of switches.

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4 Cisco UCS Components
First off a quick run down of the bits that makes up the Cisco Unified Computing System.
 1 - 2 Fabric Interconnects
 1 – 40 chassis with 1 - 2 I/O modules each
 1 – 8 blades per chassis.
The relevant components are all numbered in figure 2 and explained in more detail below.

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1) UCS 5108 Chassis

This is what some people incorrectly refer to as “a UCS”
UCS is the combination of all components which is why Cisco calls it the Unified
Computing System.
The component labelled number 1 in the diagram and shown below is the UCS 5108
Blade chassis which houses 1- 8 UCS Blade servers and up to 2 I/O modules. The
chassis is 6U in height and can hold 8 half width blades or 4 full width blades or a
combination of both. The chassis can also house up to 4 power supplies and 8 fan
modules. The system will operate on two power supplies (2+2 redundancy) but 4
power supplies should always be installed as to provide redundancy for a power feed
(Grid) failure.

Cisco UCS 5108 Blade Chassis populated with 8 x half width blades.

UCS server blades or “Compute nodes” have 2 or 4 Intel CPU sockets, internal SAS
drive bays, slots for 1 or 2 mezzanine adapters, and DDR3 DIMM slots.
Half width blades have 2 CPU sockets, 12 DIMM slots and take one mezzanine
Full width blades have 2 or 4 CPU sockets, up to 48 DIMM slots allowing for up to
384GB of RAM per dual socket blade and 512GB of RAM in a quad socket blade. The
full width blades can take two mezzanine adapters.

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Converged Network Adapters (CNAs): These are small daughter boards that are
installed in each blade and provide the I/O connectivity. There are currently three main
types of CNA (also referred to as mezzanine adapter cards) available.

 M81KR also referred to as the “VIC” (Virtual interface card) or by the Cisco
codename “Palo”. The VIC is a dual-port 10 Gigabit Ethernet mezzanine
card that provides up to 128* virtual adapters which can be configured in
any combination of Ethernet network interface cards (NICs) or Fibre
Channel Host Bus Adapters (HBAs). The M81KR should be the
mezzanine of choice as it is the most flexible of all the options.

Cisco M81KR “VIC” Mezzanine Card

 M71KR also referred to as the “Compatibility card” or by the Cisco
codename “Menlo”. This option should be selected if for any reason the
Cisco chipset on the M81KR is not supported by a 3
party vendor. The
M71KR has 2 x 10 Gigabit Ethernet connections to the mid-plane and
presents 2 x Intel 10GE NICs and either 2 Emulex or Q-Logic 4Gb HBAs to
the blade.

Cisco M71KR “Menlo” Mezzanine Card

* While the M81KR VIC can support 128 virtual adapters the real usable limit is 58 due to a limit with the amount
of virtual interfaces (VN-Tags) that are supported. There are 15 virtual interfaces supported per uplink from the
Chassis to the Fabric interconnect so using 4 x uplinks gived 60 virtual interfaces less 2 for management which
gives 58. Don’t get get too concerned about the numbers though as when was the last time you saw a server with
a mix of 58 NICS and HBA’s.

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 82598KR also referred to by the Cisco codename “Oplin”. The Oplin
provides 2 x Intel 10 Gigabit Ethernet NICs from the blade to the mid-plane
but has no Fibre Channel HBA functionality. The Oplin adapter is based on
the Intel 82598 10 Gigabit Ethernet controller, which is designed for efficient
high-performance Ethernet transport. This is obviously for blades that have
no fibre channel connectivity requirements. The benefit of this card is that it
is a cheaper option than the previous two but is limited to Ethernet only


Cisco 82598KR “Oplin” Mezzanine Card

2) I/O Modules also referred to as 2104XP Fabric Extenders (FEX)

The I/O modules fit into the rear of the chassis as shown below. Whilst the UCS can
work with one I/O module if redundancy is required (which it always should be) and in
order to provide two active data paths then you will need two.
These I/O modules connect internally to each blade and each provides 4 x 10 Gigabit
Ethernet ports for external uplinks to the Fabric Interconnects. Uplinks of 1, 2 and 4
cables are supported.

The figure above shows the two I/O modules

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3) Cisco UCS 6100 series Fabric Interconnects.

The fabric interconnects are the “brains” of the UCS, they also act as the central “hub”
for the UCS allowing up to 40 chassis (up to 320 servers) to be connected together in
to a single management domain. Although the current support maximum with UCSM
version 1.4(1) is 20 Chassis (160 Servers) this will however increase with further
The Cisco UCS 6100 Series offers line-rate, low-latency, lossless 10 Gigabit Ethernet
and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) functions.
The fabric interconnects also contain the UCS manager (UCSM) software which is the
singular web portal by which the entire system is managed.
The Fabric interconnects are available in two options a 20 port 1U height model (6120)
and a 40 port 2U height model (6140), they also have expansion module options for
additional 10 Gigabit Ethernet or fibre channel (FC) ports. As can be seen from the
topology diagram the fabric interconnects also provide the connectivity into the
existing LAN and the SAN. Again for redundancy two fabric interconnects should be
included in any UCS design. It is important to know that while the management
functionality of the fabric interconnects runs in Active/Standby mode the data paths of
both fabric interconnects run in Active/Active.
The fabric interconnects are capable of running in either end host mode where the
fabric interconnects appear to upstream switches as a host with multiple NICs and
HBAs, or they can run in switch mode where the fabric Interconnects act more like a
layer 2 switch. The default is and Cisco strongly recommend running the fabric
interconnects in end host mode.
The 6120 and 6140 Fabric Interconnects come pre licensed with 8 and 16 FCoE ports
respectively additional port licences are purchased as required.

The above graphic shows the 6120 (top) and the 6140 (bottom)

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The other components shown in the numbered diagram (Figure 2) are not part of the
Cisco UCS but are never the less explained below.

4) Fibre channel switches.

Fibre channel switches also referred to as fabric switches or fabrics.
These are the fibre channel switches that connect servers to their fibre channel
storage. SAN design best practice specifies there should always be two separate
unconnected SANs generally referred to as SAN A and SAN B. These are two
completely separate infrastructures providing redundant paths from the servers to the
In Cisco terms these would most likely be Cisco MDS switches (Multilayer Director
Switch) but could be Cisco Nexus. Other common vendors of SAN switches include
Brocade and Hewlett Packard.

Since UCSM 1.4 with the introduction of appliance ports it is now possible to directly attach
NAS and SAN storage devices directly to the Cisco 6100 fabric interconnects. However full
SAN functionality and features like zoning are not available on the fabric interconnects. If you
think you have a requirement that requires direct storage connection to the Cisco Fabric
Interconnect then please contact the author to validate your requirement.

5) Ethernet switches.
This switch represents the Ethernet network. The 6100 fabric interconnects would
generally uplink in to a redundant core switch or dual uplink into a pair of core
switches the Cisco Nexus 7000 for example. These uplinks will be 10 Gigabit Ethernet,
although it is possible to throttle down a number of ports on the fabric interconnects to
Gigabit Ethernet to provide support for core switches which do not have 10 Gigabit

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6) Storage Area Network (SAN)

This is the storage device(s) which contain the physical disks and Fibre Channel

Common fibre channel storage offerings are:
 EMC Symmetrix DMX/VMAX
 Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) VSP
In contrast to fibre channel storage a common alternative is Network Attached Storage
(NAS) which provides network shares, just like a file server and uses Ethernet cabling
and as such would be connected to the Ethernet data network.

Common NAS offerings are:
 NetApp FAS product line
 EMC Celerra

Well that about covers the components that make up the Cisco Unified Computing
System and how Cisco UCS would integrate into an existing Ethernet and fibre
channel networks.
The Topology diagram below shows a how all these components tie in with each

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5 Topology Diagram
The below diagram shows all the components of the Cisco UCS system, along with how UCS
ties in with the existing Ethernet Local Area Network (LAN) and fibre Storage Area Network
(SAN). Don’t worry if the below diagram looks a bit daunting all shall be explained!

Cisco UCS

Figure 2 Cisco UCS Components

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6 The 5 Karate Moves of Cisco UCS
In the same way that the Karate Kid only knew 5 Karate moves and was then immediately
able to beat black belts and win a whole tournament, once you know the 5 “Moves” below
you will know all the key UCS features and how to impart the value of the Cisco UCS

In summary the 5 Karate Moves of UCS are:

1. Management

2. Fibre Channel over Ethernet

3. Extended Memory Technology

4. Virtualisation

5. Statelessness

These 5 “moves” are described in detail below.

1) Management

Cisco UCS uses a single IP address to manage up to 320 (160 today) servers including all of
the network and storage elements of those servers.
This also means a single management pane of glass via a single GUI (UCSM)

2) Unified Fabric (Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE)

This basically just means wrapping a Fibre channel (Storage) frame in an Ethernet
(Networking) frame and transmitting it over same cabling. This has many advantages, which
are detailed below.

Historically Fibre Channel speeds have always been higher than those of Ethernet i.e. 1,2,4
and 8Gb/s, However 10Gb Ethernet is now available and the 40GB and 100GB Ethernet
standards now ratified and as such speed is no longer the limiting factor.

Next to make use of a lossy Ethernet network to transmit lossless storage data was a
challenge that needed to be overcome.

Think of an Ethernet network as a conveyor belt with a workman loading boxes on one end,
he is unaware whether he is loading boxes too fast for the second workman at the other end
to take them off, however if boxes start dropping of the end of the conveyor belt the second
workman can shout for him to slow down. The first workman will then half his loading rate and
gradually speed up until boxes once more fall of the end and his colleague shouts to him to

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slow down again. These dropped boxes while tolerable in an Ethernet network are totally
unacceptable in a fibre channel network.

In contrast think of a Fibre Channel network not as a conveyor belt but a line of workman who
pass the boxes down the line from one to the other. The first workman cannot pass his box
until the workman standing next to him has passed his box and thus has empty hands (or in
Fibre Channel terms a buffer credit) This way there should never be a dropped box.

So the challenge was how to transmit both types of boxes over the same network.
As we have seen many times before when Cisco don’t like the rules, what do they do? That’s
right, they change them.

Cisco accomplished this by enhancing the rules of Ethernet with the inception of Cisco Data
Centre Ethernet (DCE) submitted to the IEEE for standardisation who thought the name Data
Centre Bridging (DCB) sounded better. Other vendors have since followed suit and use terms
as Enhanced Converged Ethernet, but all should adhere to the IEEE DCB standard.

By unifying Ethernet and Fibre Channel on the same medium a whole new raft of
consolidation and cost savings opens up.

Consider the below example.

Example: Take a VMware ESX host that requires 8 NICs and two HBAs making 10 physical
connections in total. This same server when deployed on a Cisco UCS blade now has only 2!

This equates to an 80% cabling reduction. On top of which adding additional NICS and HBAs
is now a simple matter of mouse clicks, leading to what has been termed a “Wire once”

This significant cabling reduction leads to several other benefits including: Less server
switch ports required, which means less switches, more efficient cooling, and less power
used (Gigabit Ethernet Cat 6 cabling consumes up to 8watts of power per end, FCoE twin-ax
cabling uses 0.1 watt per end)

It is also a fact that many Enterprises are “forced” into buying high end multiprocessor
servers purely because they need the higher numbers of PCIe slots that the larger servers
provide, when the processor and memory of a smaller 1U server may well have been
sufficient. This is just another one of the many current data centre inefficiencies that are
negated with Cisco UCS.

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3) Extended Memory Technology (EMT)

This basically means more Virtual Machine workloads per server and greater server
consolidation in other words much more with much less.

It is widely accepted that a CPUs optimal running efficiency is 60-70% but with the rapid
evolution of CPUs and the ever increasing amount of cores and multi-threading capabilities
per socket, most hosts, particularly VMware ESX hosts run out of RAM well before they reach
this 60-70% “sweet spot”.

In an Intel Nehalem (XEON 5500/5600) architecture, memory is directly associated per
processor (socket). Each socket has 3 memory channels and each memory channel has
access to 2 DDR3 DIMM slots this equals 6 DIMM slots per socket. Therefore a dual socket
server can access a maximum of 12 DIMM slots and if using 16GB DIMMS the absolute
maximum amount of RAM that can be installed is 192GB.

So how do you get more RAM? Well you need to add another CPU which in fact makes the
system even less efficient than before as you have added another huge amount of CPU
cycles, not to mention possibly significantly increasing license costs.

VMware vSphere for example is licensed per socket so getting quad socket RAM on a dual
socket board can half VMware vSphere Licence costs. Which is real terms can in its self
provide a significant cost saving.

Enter EMT which allows a dual socket host access to a massive 384GB of RAM.

How does Cisco manage this? Well as mentioned in chapter 3 Cisco UCS is a ground up
development and as such Cisco by partnering with the likes of Intel and VMware could
address a lot of these limitations and provide several optimisations. And as mentioned in
“Move” 2 when the playing field is too even and Cisco doesn’t like the rules, they change

Cisco realised that the maximum single DIMM that a BIOS could logically address is 32GB.
and while at the time of writing (Q4 2010) 32GB DIMMs are still not readily commercially
available, by developing the “Catalina” ASIC and placing it between the CPU and memory
channels it was possible to in effect “RAID” 4 x 8GB physical DIMMs into 1 x 32GB logical
Thereby able to present 6 x 32GB logical DIMMs (192GB) to each socket this physically
equates to 24 x 8GB DIMMs per socket on the system board making 48 DIMM slots on a dual
socket blade.

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The above figure shows the Cisco “Catalina” ASICs between the DIMMs and the CPU which
presents 24 x 8GB physical DIMMS as 6 x 32GB logical DIMMs per CPU (socket)

While the benefits detailed above are clear with regards to maximising memory there is
another benefit to be had if there isn’t a requirement to maximise the memory to 384GB per
blade. For example take the requirement to equal the maximum amount of memory that can
be installed in an HP blade server utilising dual Intel XEON 5500 processors:

Assuming £1000 for an 16GB DDR3 DIMM and £100 for a 4GB DIMM

HP Dual XEON 5500 12 DIMM Slots using 16GB DIMMS = 192MB @ 800MHz = £12000
Cisco UCS B250 48 DIMM Slots using 4GB DIMMS = 192MB @ 1066MHz = £4800

As can be seen there are significant cost savings to be had by using a large number of low
capacity DIMMs. This is only made possible by having the memory real estate of 48 DIMM
slots available with Cisco Extended Memory Technology compared to only 12 in a
comparable HP server.

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4) Virtualisation

Cisco UCS was built from the ground up with virtualised environments in mind. Cisco have
partnered with Intel and VMware to integrate many virtualisation optimisations at hardware
For instance Cisco UCS virtualises I/O at the BIOS level so when guest operating systems
perform PCI bus scans they see these virtualised resources as “Physical” devices.
Cisco UCS also tightly integrates with VMware and individual virtual machines can be seen
via the UCSM GUI.

5) Statelessness

Statelessness basically means making the underlying hardware completely transparent to the
operating system and applications running over it. Blades or “Compute nodes” have no
identity. This is accomplished via service profiles, which are like software definitions for

By using service profiles replacing a failed blade can take a matter of minutes, all MAC
addresses, World Wide Node names (WWN),Universally Unique Identifiers (UUID), Firmware
and even BIOS settings are only ever associated with a service profile which can be
detached and reattached to blades as required.


Historically if a server failed in the data centre the procedure would be to send an engineer in
to investigate and if required replace the failed blade.

Obviously we don’t want to have to reconfigure other entities which may be linked to this
server’s particular MAC address, so the engineer would move the NIC cards from the failed
unit to the replacement. Similarly we don’t want to have to involve the SAN team in having to
re-zone the storage, so the engineer would move the HBAs from the failed unit to the
replacement to ensure the WWPNs remain unchanged. Also there may be software licenses
tied to the Universally Unique Identifier (UUID) of the server.

Taking all the above into account this server swap out could take several hours resulting in
server downtime and engineer resource costs.

In a Cisco UCS environment this would be a simple matter of disassociating the service
profile from the failed blade and re-associating it to a standby or replacement blade and then
just power up the new blade.

As mentioned all MAC addresses, WWPNs, UUIDs, firmware revisions and settings are only
ever associated with the service profile and as such this new blade will be an exact match of
the failed unit thus preserving all identity information.

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7 Vblock
The Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) coalition, formed jointly by Cisco and EMC with
VMware, represents an unprecedented level of collaboration in development, services, and
partner enablement to minimize risk during an organisation's infrastructure virtualisation
journey to private cloud implementation. One of the offerings to come out of this coalition is
the Vblock.
Vblock delivers a pre-tested, pre-integrated, unified solution for delivering virtualized IT
resources which are managed and supported through a single organisation, staffed by
experts from all three companies.
There seems to be a lot of confusion in the industry and our customers around what a Vblock
is, in particularly how UCS relates to Vblock.
Put simply a Vblock is a packaged offering from VCE with Cisco UCS providing the compute
platform with EMC providing the storage and VMware providing the Virtualisation.
While UCS is part of the Vblock Bill-of-Materials (BOM), it is not in any way restricted to only
be sold in a VCE or Vblock configuration. While UCS does have design characteristics and
integration points that optimise it for virtualised Data Centre environments, Cisco realises that
customers have a variety of computing needs (physical and virtual) and vendor preferences
(applications, hypervisor, storage, management, etc.) and is fully committed to delivering the
value of UCS to those environments.
There are currently three different Vblock infrastructure packages each sized to a different

Vblock 0 (300 – 800+ VMs)
- An entry level configuration addresses small data centres or organisations.
- Test / development platform for Partners and customers.

Vblock 1 (800 – 3000+ VMs)
- A mid-sized configuration – broad range of IT capabilities for organisations of all
- Typical use case:
Shared services – Email, File and Print, Virtual Desktops etc..

Vblock 2 (3000 – 6000+ VMs)
- A high-end configuration – extensible to meet the most demanding IT needs.
- Typical use case:
Business critical ERP, CRM systems

Computacenter deployed the first VCE Vblock2 infrastructure package in the UK and EMEA
to leverage for customer demonstrations. The solution is an integrated, tested and validated

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data centre infrastructure offering that supports a broad range of operating systems and
applications that enable customers to accelerate broad-scale data centre virtualisation.
The Vblock2 is available for customer demonstrations in the Hatfield Solutions Centre
For more information or to arrange a demonstration of the Vblock 2 contact the below

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8 What to look out for that could indicate
there is a potential UCS opportunity?

Customers embarking on a virtualisation project

This is the perfect time to put the platform in place to support x86 virtualisation technologies.

Customers with data centre constraint issues

Customers looking to use blade based technology to reduce DC impact.

Customer looking to upgrade their server infrastructure

Customers who are looking to migrate workloads from UNIX platforms who require a
scalable platform and high memory requirements.

Many customers with UNIX workloads are looking at Linux on x86 as a lower cost way of
delivering Services.

Customers who are planning on building a new data centre

This is the perfect time to position UCS, especially if the customer is bought into the Cisco
DC 3.0 strategy. (http://www.cisco.com/en/US/netsol/ns340/ns394/ns224/index.html)

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9 Pre-empting Customer Concerns.
Listed below are some concerns real or perceived that customers may have about adopting
Cisco UCS.

Q. Isn’t Cisco UCS really just for green field data centre deployments?

A. No. Providing up to 86% cabling reduction and reducing the provisioning time for a new
server from weeks to minutes along with substantial operation expenditure savings.
There are numerous and very tangible benefits for deploying Cisco UCS into existing estates.

Q. Cisco UCS gives me a vast increase in Virtual Machine (VM) consolidation but this
means if I lose a blade / MEZ card I could potentially lose hundreds of VMs.

A. True, however a significant amount of unplanned outages in the Data Centre are due to
human error* and with the vast reduction of cabling and infrastructure along with the
simplified management, unplanned outages should in fact decrease.
Also the meantime between failure of components shows that hardware failures are
extremely rare, this coupled with the fact that all major components have hardware
redundancy available and have extremely sensitive monitoring in place to detect component
degradation in its earliest stages.
On top of this there are several methods to provide redundancy to Virtual machines via
VMware with utilities such as VMware High Availability (HA) and VMware Fault Tolerance

*Any survey body you care to mention.

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10 Cisco UCS vs. The Competition

With the innovative technology and strategic partnerships described in this document Cisco
UCS has a real jump on the competitors, the below points compare Cisco UCS with other
vendor offerings in the same space.
While a detailed comparison with each will be a future document in its own right, the key
differentiators are detailed below.
As mentioned several times in this document Cisco UCS is a system made up of several
components as such just doing a “blade to blade” cost comparison is not a valid exercise.
The only true CAPEX cost comparison if you want to “compare apples with apples” is
consider the system price over the system price of that of a competitor, once this comparison
is made Cisco UCS with be shown to be a highly competitive option with the addition of
significant OPEX savings.

10.1 Cisco UCS Vs HP Bladesystem Matrix

As a Sci-fi enthusiast I find it apt that HP have named there “all-in-one” blade system “Matrix”
As just like in the Matrix movie where the Neo character was told by Morpheus that the
Agents whilst incredibly fast and strong must still adhere to the laws of reality and as such
could never be as fast or as strong as Neo, who had no such restriction.
Just like the above analogy the HP Bladesystem Matrix must still adhere to several rules and
standards which have already been pushed to the absolute maximum. The Cisco UCS as
detailed in the 5 Karate moves section has been engineered beyond many such boundaries.
HP has a separate product for virtual I/O called Virtual Connect. Unlike the Cisco UCS,
HP's Virtual Connect is implemented at the I/O module level.

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Management is on a per chassis basis with Onboard Administrator modules. Up to 4
chassis can be connected together for consolidation of cabling and management scaling
beyond four chassis, central management can be provided with Insight Dynamics – VSE
Suite. UCS in contrast has a single management IP address and single user interface for
upto 320 servers (40 Chassis).
Matrix optionally includes an HP EVA (Enterprise Virtual Array) for storage and HP
services to tie all the pieces together. Cisco UCS uses a single redundant management
platform the UCSM.
HP’s marketing lists one of the many benefits of Matrix as “Matrix allows customers to get the
benefits of a converged system without a “rip and replace” strategy for all their existing data
centre investments.”
HP clearly sees that harnessing existing products without a “forklift” upgrade is a key
differentiator over Cisco UCS and that this also protects investment clients may have made in
training staff etc. However Cisco UCS should be a natural and painless transition for IT
support professionals.
Over a year has passed since both products began shipping. The overwhelming popularity,
elegance, reliability and ease of deployment of Cisco UCS evidence the three years of
investment Cisco made in developing an optimised virtualisation platform. The complexity
and limitations with Matrix, on the other hand, indicate a rushed repackaging of existing HP
products in response to the Cisco offering.

Cisco UCS vs. HP Matrix comparison.
Cisco UCS HP Matrix
Enterprise scalability
40 chasses*, 320 blades – tens of
thousands of VMs
*20 Chassis supported today with
UCSM 1.4
250 total logical servers. Can combine up to 4 CMS to reach
1,000 logical servers, but no clustering or information sharing.
Server profiles cannot be moved from one CMS to another
Redundancy All components redundant
Central Management Server has no fault tolerance or clustering
and little or no redundancy.
96GB Half Width Blade and
384GB Full Width Blade
With HP BL490C half-height blades : 144 GB w/8 GB DIMMs,
192 w/16 GB DIMMs
With HP BL685c (AMD) blades: 256 GB
"Closed" Architecture
Cisco UCS requires Cisco
servers, CNAs and Fabric
Interconnects for optimal
Requires one of the following specific HP ProLiant blades: HP
ProLiant BL260c, HP ProLiant BL280c, HP ProLiant BL460c,
HP ProLiant BL465c, HP ProLiant BL490c, HP ProLiant
BL495c, HP ProLiant BL680c or HP ProLiant BL685c.
vNIC & vHBA Support
Up to 128 each with Palo Adapter
(56 vNICs per half-slot server
LAN – Ethernet 16 x 10 Gb downlinks to server ports
SAN – Fiber 16 X 8 Gb 2/4/8Gb auto negotiating server ports

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OS Support for Management
None required
Windows Server® 2008, Enterprise Edition 32 bit
Windows Server® 2003, Enterprise Edition R2/SP2: 32 bit
Database Support for
Management Software
None required
Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Microsoft SQL Server 2005 SP2,
Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express Edition SP2
Hypervisor Support
Supports any X86-based
hypervisor. Particular advantages
from tight integration with
VMware vSphere
VMware ESX Server 3.5.0 Update 4
VMware ESX Server 4.0 (pilot & test environments only)
Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V (though not yet supported by
Insight Recovery)
Guest OS Support (server) Any
Windows Server® 2008, Datacenter Edition 32 bit and x64
Windows Server® 2008 Hyper-V, Datacenter1 x64
Windows Server® 2003, Enterprise Edition R2/SP2: 32 bit R2/SP2: x64
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 43 Update 7: 32 bit Update 7: AMD64 and
Intel® EM64T
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 53 Update 3: 32 bit Update 3: AMD64 and
Intel® EM64T
SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 103 SP2: 32 bit SP2: AMD64 and Intel®
Guest OS Support (VDI) Any None (No Matrix automated provisioning support )
3rd party development XML-based API None
QOS Yes None
Minimum cables required per
chassis (inc. FC & redundancy)
2 6
Maximum cables potentially
needed per chassis (inc. FC &
8 34
FCoE Yes No
Ability to deliver native
network and storage
performance to VMs via
hypervisor bypass
Yes No
Network traffic monitoring &
application of live-migration
aware network and security
Cisco VN-Link / Nexus 1000V None
Mfg. Support 1-Year 3-Year

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10.2 Cisco UCS Vs IBM BladeCentre

IBM H class BladeCenter chassis house up to 14 blade servers and support Intel, AMD and
PowerPC processors Vs Cisco UCS which supports 8 Blades with Intel CPUs. However
memory density in the Cisco blades can scale to much higher per Intel CPU.

IBM are at this time the only other vendor who offer a Converged Network Adapter
which is compatible with the Cisco Nexus 5000, however in order to use the IBM CNAs a
10Gig pass through module is required, meaning that one external cable is required for each
server, this could quickly eat up Nexus 5000 ports as a fully populated single H class chassis
would require 14 switch ports. In contrast Cisco UCS has between 1 and 4 10 Gigabit
Ethernet uplinks per I/O module which equates to a significant cabling reduction over the IBM

Management and ease of use is another big advantage that Cisco UCS has over an IBM
IBM require Advanced Management Modules (AMM) in the blade chassis each of which have
separate IP addresses and require individual management, this does not scale as well and
distributes management over many chassis and IP addresses, in addition network modules
and fabric modules are again all managed independently. Cisco UCS on the other hand has
a single management IP address and user interface for up to 320 servers (40 Chassis) and
all network and fibre channel configuration is carried out via this single management

IBM do offer a free management product called Director which does provide a centralised
management portal, however this does require provisioning an additional Management

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11 Glossary of Terms

TERM Acronym Definition
Unified Computing
UCS You should know what this means by now.
Converged Network
CNA Contain both Fibre Channel Host Bus Adapter (HBA) and
Ethernet Network Interface Card (NIC) functionality on the
same adapter card.
Input / Output I/O Inputs are the signals or data received by the system, and
outputs are the signals or data sent from it.
Data Centre Bridging DCB Enhancements to Ethernet local area networks for use in data
centre environments
Fibre Channel over
FCoE Encapsulation of Fibre Channel frames over Ethernet networks
Internet Small
Computer System
iSCSI Internet Protocol (IP)-based storage networking standard for
linking data storage facilities
Network Attached
NAS File-level computer data storage connected to a computer
Dual Inline Memory
DIMM Memory Chips on a small printed circuit board
Central Processing
CPU The portion of a computer system that carries out the
instructions of a computer program
Host Bus Adapter HBA Connects a host system to other network and storage devices
Multi CORE N/A Multiple processors that coexist on the same chip
THREAD N/A Is the smallest unit of processing that can be scheduled by an
operating system.
PROCESS N/A An instance of a computer program that is being executed
SOCKET N/A The connector on a computer's motherboard for the CPU
Redundant Array of
Independent Disks
RAID Multiple physical drives presented to an operation system and
a single logical drive often providing fault tolerance for single or
multiple drive failures.
Application Specific
Integrated Circuit
ASIC A Computer chip designed for a dedicated function
World Wide Port
WWPN A unique number assigned to a fibre channel host port
Storage Area
SAN A separate network for storage devices that appear that they
are directly connected to hosts.
Serial Attached
SAS SAS drive utilizes the same form factor as a SATA drive but
has several high performance advantages

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TERM Acronym Definition
Capital Expenditure Capex CAPEX is the cost of the initial outlay of the product or system
Opex OPEX is an ongoing cost for running a product, business, or

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Appendix A B Series UCS Blade Servers

The below table details a comparison of the various UCS B Series Server Blades

Models Comparison: Cisco UCS B-Series Blade Servers
Cisco UCS
B200 M1
Blade Server
Cisco UCS
B200 M2
Blade Server
Cisco UCS
B250 M1
Blade Server
Cisco UCS
B250 M2
Blade Server
Cisco UCS
B230 M1
Blade Server
Cisco UCS
B440 M1
Blade Server

2 2 2 2 2 4

Intel Xeon
5500 Series
Intel Xeon
5600 Series
Intel Xeon
5500 Series
Intel Xeon
5600 Series
Intel Xeon
6500 or 7500
Intel Xeon
7500 Series
12 DIMMs; up
to 96 GB
12 DIMMs; up
to 192 GB
48 DIMMs; up
to 384 GB
48 DIMMs; up
to 384 GB
32 DIMMs; up
to 256 GB
32 DIMMs; up
to 256 GB
Memory Size
and Speed
4, and 8 GB
DDR3; 1066
MHz and 1333
4, and 8, and
16 GB DDR3;
1066 MHz and
1333 MHz
4, and 8 GB
DDR3; 1066
4, and 8 GB
DDR3; 1066
MHz and 1333
4 and 8 GB
DDR3; 1066
4 and 8 GB
DDR3; 1066

Internal Disk
2x 2.5" SFF
SAS or 15mm
2x 2.5" SFF
SAS or 15mm
2x 2.5" SFF
SAS or 15mm
2x 2.5" SFF
SAS or 15mm
2x 2.5" solid-
state drives
4x 2.5" SFF
0,1 0,1 0,1 0,1 0,1 0,1,5,6

Mezzanine I/O
Adapter Slots
1 1 2 2 1 2

Up to 20 Gbps Up to 20 Gbps Up to 40 Gbps Up to 40 Gbps Up to 20 Gbps Up to 40 Gbps

Form Factor Half width Half width Full width Full width Half width Full width

Max. Servers
per Chassis
8 8 4 4 8 4

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Appendix B C Series UCS Servers

Comparison of Cisco UCS C-Series Rack-Mount Server Features

Cisco UCS C200 M1
and M2
Cisco UCS C210 M1
and M2
Cisco UCS C250 M1
and M2
Cisco UCS C460 M1
Ideal for
virtualization and
mainstream data center
Economical, high-
capacity, reliable,
internal storage; file,
storage, database, and
virtualization and large
dataset workloads
applications and
virtualized workloads
Maximum memory 96 GB 96 GB 384 GB 512 GB
Internal disk drive Up to 4 Up to 16 Up to 8 Up to 12
Built-In RAID 0 and 1 (SATA only)
0 and 1
(5 SATA drives only)
Optional RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, and 10
0, 1, 5, 6, 10, 50, and
0, 1, 5, 6, 10, 50, and
0, 1, 5, 6, 10, 50, and
2X integrated Gb
10 Gb unified fabric
2X integrated Gb
10 Gb unified fabric
4X integrated Gb
10 Gb unified fabric
2X Gigabit Ethernet
(LOM) ports;
2X 10 Gigabit Ethernet
I/O via PCIe
Two half length x8
slots: one full height
and one low profile
Five full height x8 slots:
two full length and
three half length
Three low profile, half
length x8 slots; 2 full-
height, half length x16
Ten PCIe slots, all full
height; 4 half length
slots, 6 three quarter
length slots; 2 Gen 1
slots, 8 Gen 2 slots
Up to 2 Intel Xeon 5500
or 5600 Series
Up to 2 Intel Xeon 5500
or 5600 Series
Up to 2 Intel Xeon 5500
or 5600 Series
Up to 4 Intel Xeon
7500 Series

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