Cisco Introduces New Tool to Manage Disparate UCS Data Centers

Cisco is introducing UCS Central, an adjunct to its Unified Computing System (UCS) platform for managing data centers. UCS Central builds on that capability by managing multiple UCS data centers across the globe.

Cisco Systems is expanding its Unified Computing System (UCS) management platform with a new component called UCS Central, which handles provisioning and orchestration of UCS systems, not just in one data center but across multiple data centers running as public, private and hybrid clouds in diverse geographic locations.

UCS Central does not replace UCS Manager, but extends its management support beyond just one domain, which Cisco defines as an individual data center running an instance of UCS. Unified Computing System is Cisco’s brand for a system in which Cisco server and networking technology is integrated with storage technology into one system.

Cisco also rolled out on Nov. 1 version 2.1 of UCS Manager, adding “single-wire management” support for Cisco C-series rack servers that previously had only been available for Cisco blade servers.

Single-wire support is based on Cisco’s Unified Fabric networking technology that significantly reduces the complex cabling of servers to various network switches, said Brian Schwarz, director of product management within the Cisco Data Center Group.

Cisco servers are connected to Nexus Fabric Extenders and UCS Fabric Interconnects, delivering a 78 percent reduction in the amount of cabling required and a 29 percent reduction in networking costs per server, according to the company.

Cisco estimates that in a typical 100 rack server environment, in which virtualization is deployed, costs per node decline to $1.7 million, half the cost of the same 100 servers without Unified Fabric. Savings are realized through reduced cabling and the need for fewer servers, as well as power and cooling savings and reduced administrative costs, according to Cisco.

These enhancements to the UCS platform are designed to control costs and complexity and simplify management of IT infrastructure for IT professionals faced with delivering new capabilities such as virtualization, cloud computing, big data analysis and the like without necessarily adding staff, Cisco says.

“The same IT folks are constantly being asked to run more and more applications. The number is going up and to the right, and unfortunately the [number of] people to manage that is not going up and to the right,” said Schwarz.

UCS Central can also simplify deployment of data centers in different geographic locations by setting up mirror sites, each configured the same way, according to Schwarz. That enables the faster setup of duplicate data centers for business continuity and disaster recovery, he said.

“There is a lot of talk of hurricanes these days with people trying to move workloads out of facilities that might be in harm’s way,” Schwarz said, referring to Hurricane Sandy, which brought high winds and heavy rain that caused floods and power outages. The storm threatened data centers as well as Internet and wireless communications along the U.S. East Coast. “It makes that process of migrating workloads easier,” said Schwarz.

Cisco has also added new features to the UCS storage component that now works with storage systems from EMC, Hitachi and NetApp.

Also new is the Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud software, (Cisco IAC) version 3.1, which delivers cloud management capabilities to enterprise data centers and service providers.

Upgrades in version 3.1 include CloudSync, which aids in the discovery and management of different components within cloud environments, coordinated management of multiple virtual data centers and a Network Services Manager for keeping track of network resources in the cloud.

“Effectively, what this allows you to do is, within your environment, you can track and manage all the different infrastructure elements and connected systems within your data centers,” said Jason Schroedel, director of marketing for data center and cloud products at Cisco.

IDC says the impact of virtualization and cloud computing has made the deployment of data center provisioning and orchestration tools critical for enterprises and service providers to be successful.

Key to improving provisioning and orchestration is the development of consistent service-level agreements across data center domains, tighter integration and orchestration of cross-domain workflows and a clearer picture of when to rely on IT resources from a cloud provider or the enterprise’s IT.