Cisco UCS Manager – Orchestration Done Right

Earlier this month Cisco announced General Availability of UCS Central – a manager of managers. Given Cisco’s string of failures when venturing outside its comfort zone (think Flip and Cius), few expected anything different when Cisco entered the servers market in 2009. But instead it has been a resounding success. UCS has become the fastest growing business in Cisco history with over fifteen thousand customers and over a $1 billion annual revenue. It is already the #2 blade server market share leader in North America. Why has it done so well?

I believe one of the main reasons is that its management software, UCS Manager, delivers one thing that SDN also promises – High Level Orchestration. Before UCS Manager, administrators, such as Chris Atkinson, had to write their own scripts to configure and maintain BIOS configs, RAID configs, and firmware configs. With UCS Manager, this information is kept in a Service Profile. When a blade dies, the blade does not need to be removed and ports do not need to be updated. Just move the Service Profile to a new blade via software. Need to repurpose a physical server for a different department? Just create a new Service Profile and reassign the blade server to that Service Profile without recabling or moving metal, all within a matter of seconds. You would expect such agility with moving virtual machines, not physical machines!

In one of my past lives I used to work very closely with CiscoWorks. UCS Manager does a far better job at managing servers than CiscoWorks did at managing routers and switches. CiscoWorks was rigid and far too dependent on CLI (Telnet/SSH) and SNMP MIB modules for accessing and managing devices. UCS Manager, with its single-wire management and XML API, is more flexible and integrates with third party systems management tools, which allows for more agile deployments. My understanding is that the same APIs are opened up in UCS Central. Let’s see whether it can be as successful as UCS Manager.


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