Cisco Boosts Cloud Automation, Management Capabilities For Large-Scale UCS Deployments9:03 AM EST Fri. Nov. 02, 2012
Cisco this week made substantial updates to its Unified Computing System (UCS) and cloud automation portfolios, including a centralized management tool for large-scale UCS deployments and the extension of certain connectivity tools to support rack-mount server versions of UCS in addition to blade server versions.
New to the UCS platform is UCS Central, what Brian Schwarz, director, UCS product management, described as a "big brother" to Cisco's UCS Manager software. UCS Central creates a single management dashboard for large-scale UCS deployments and the many UCS Managers needed to control distributed server environments across large enterprises.
Whereas an instance of UCS Manager covers up to 160 or up to 320 computing nodes, depending on a customer's configuration, UCS Central can oversee as many as 10,000 physical servers. It's based on the same data model and API structure as UCS Manager so IT managers used to the UCS Manager interface won't find anything too new, according to Cisco.
What customers get is not only computing-node scale but also centralized inventory, server consoles, logs and other management tools, Schwarz said. He expects developers using Cisco's UCS API -- a list that includes well-known companies like Compuware, Splunk and ScienceLogic -- to build additional management capabilities into the UCS Central platform.
Cisco's UCS launched in March 2009 and has become one of the networking titan's most successful product portfolios: a $1.6 billion business for Cisco inside of four years, growing 50 percent year-over-year, and as of September nearing 16,000 customers worldwide. Schwarz said the larger, more sophisticated customers who would require the UCS Central likely represent about 25 to 30 percent of the overall UCS customer base.
In addition to UCS Central, the UCS Manager itself has been updated. Version 2.1, confirmed Thursday, simplifies connectivity of Cisco's C-series rack-mount servers using capabilities like rapid application deployment that were previously only available for Cisco's blade server UCS configurations. Overall, UCS Manager 2.1 pares down the number of cables needed for connecting virtual servers, and also reduces the number of switches and adapters needed, according to Cisco.
Steve Kaplan, vice president, virtualization and cloud for Presidio, a Greenbelt, Md.-based solution provider, said Cisco's update would solve UCS challenges with customers for whom the C-series rack servers are a better data center fit.
"As virtualization proliferates, we are seeing an increased demand for huge amounts of memory, multiple adapters, specialized adapters and high disk-spindle counts in local storage," Kaplan told CRN. "These needs are better served by rack mount form factors, but rack mount servers have traditionally required a lot more infrastructure and cost than blades."
NEXT: Cisco IAC Version 3.1 Debuts
The other major update from Cisco this week is a new version, 3.1, of Cisco's Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC), the software it provides for managing public, private or hybrid cloud environments and both the physical and virtualized assets within those environments.
The new version's improvements include a feature called CloudSync, which offers scheduled or on-demand discovery and tracking of pieces of network infrastructure. Another new feature is the ability to manage multiple virtual data centers using the 5.0.2 version of Cisco's Network Services Manager, eliminating the need to buy additional virtual machine management tools, according to Cisco. The company said it is looking to move beyond garden variety VM management and into more comprehensive virtual data center flexibility tools.
The software includes assets from recent Cisco acquisitions like NewScale, which brought the company cloud management and automation tools.
"This is about making sure the right services are in the right place -- a self-service portal for managing services through approvals and creating a governance engine," Scott Hammond, Cisco vice president, Intelligent Automation Services Business Unit (IASBU) and former NewScale CEO, told CRN.
The way to look at it, Hammond said, is how to take costs out of administrating OS instances, everything from capital to man hours needed to run data centers efficiently. The more efficient the provisioning and cloud asset management tools, the fewer resources expended and the less money spent, he explained.
Trey Layton, CTO for VCE, the joint venture of Cisco and EMC and developer of Vblock converged infrastructure architectures, said the IAC 3.1 update would be ideal for VCE customers.
"Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud 3.1 builds upon its portal and orchestration engine with new CloudSync functionality, support for virtual data centers and the inclusion of Cisco Network Services Manager to extend its native orchestration capabilities deeper into the network layer," Layton said in a comment e-mailed to CRN.