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Cisco UCS review: Integrating server, storage, network management

Cisco's UCS, or Unified Computing System architecture, is a standout hardware for virtualization technology by integrates server hardware, storage and network management.

Cisco Systems' Inc.'s Unified Computing System (UCS) is not a simple server or software application. It is a truly...

innovative and powerful platform for virtualization that can be difficult to understand at first glance. But the key to its power is how UCS integrates server, storage and network management.

This review will help those new to Cisco's Unified Computing System understand how Cisco' can help build a virtualized infrastructure.

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What is Cisco's UCS? 
Cisco says that the UCS is "next generation," and I concur. UCS is not just a traditional server, storage area network (SAN), and network thrown into a rack. It is more powerful because it is joined with a powerful management platform.

Picture this: A large rack brought into your data center with computing power, storage, and 10 GB Ethernet connectivity. While you could construct this architecture yourself from hardware from a variety of vendors, Cisco's unified computing system stand out is its integrated management of the entire infrastructure. This is made possible trhough the Cisco UCS Manager.

Cisco UCS Manager is a software application that manages the entire UCS platform with easy-to-understand roles. From one of these roles, administrators can provision the server, storage and network resources all at once from a single graphical user interface. This capability alone sets UCS apart from competitive offering.

Profiles are created for applications that contain information about the power, cooling, security, computing hardware, networking, and storage that is required for the application. When demand increases for an application, the infrastructure resources required for that application can quickly be deployed again with the already existing profile.

With the flexibility of UCS, you can deploy as few as one and as many as 320 servers based on a single application profile.

How can Cisco UCS Architecture help you? 
There are seven features that differentiate Cisco UCS from other virtualization hardware products:

  1. centralized management interface (GUI and command-line interface) for all computing, network and storage resources;
  2. role-based administration to allow the right person to deploy and manage the application and infrastructure that he needs to manage;
  3. policy-based management that connects IT to the company's strategic initiatives;
  4. service profiles that ensure fast and accurate deployment of the infrastructure resources;
  5. high availability so that critical applications are always running;
  6. up to 320 servers and thousands of virtual machines per management interface; and
  7. hardware performance and scalability features, such as the following:
    • VN-Link virtualization support. All network links are centrally managed whether they connect to a physical server or a virtual server;
    • Cisco Extended Memory Technology. This capability features two times the RAM as a traditional server, up to 384 GB;
    • High-performance Intel Xeon 5500 series processors;
    • Energy efficiency. Power supplies are 92% energy efficient, and blade servers reduce the power and cooling demands by 50%.

For more product details, case studies and videos on Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS), visit the Cisco UCS Product page.

For more on the best hardware for virtualization, return to our Best virtualization hardware guide overview.

About the author 
David Davis is the director of infrastructure at TrainSignal.com – the global leader in video training for IT pros. He has several certifications including vExpert, VMware Certified Profession (or VCP), CISSP, and CCIE #9369. Additionally, Davis has authored hundreds of articles and six video training courses at Train Signal, where one of the most popular course is the VMware vSphere 4 video training course. His website is VMwareVideos.com. You can follow Davis on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.
 

This was last published in December 2009

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