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Cisco UCS: Current ESX Config

Wow, we are at the 1 year mark of having Cisco UCS in our environment which is now our standard, what a year it has been. I was fortunate enough to present to a lot of people at a few conferences, sit on some expert panel discussions as well as the Unified Compute Advisory Board and talk to a lot of new customers during their investigation periods into UCS. It has been satisfying to hear the majority of reference customers I have talked with decided to go with Cisco UCS. There are even a few that are blogging about it!

I figured it is time to update everyone on the current configuration build we are using. I think back to when we started with VMware on 3.5 and how much more complex it all seems now but with that complexity we all have gained greater control, cost savings and agility.

Current Build:

Cisco UCS B200 M1 or M2 blade with 2 CPU, 96 GB memory, Cisco VIC (Palo) interface card.
Cisco Nexus 1000v distributed virtual switch.
EMC PowerPath/VE for fiber channel multi-pathing.
VMware 4.1 Enterprise Plus (not yet using 4.1i, but soon) with Enhanced vMotion enabled.

So what has changed for us since last December when we went into production on UCS? Well the new technology that Cisco, VMware and EMC keep creating and it all still fits and works together.


The release of the M2 blade brought with it the Intel Westmere CPU and 6 cores. For about the same price point we were able to add 50% more processing power in a half size blade. Then by enabling Enhanced vMotion in our VMware cluster these new M2 blades work seamlessly with the M1 blades.

Cisco VIC (Palo) mezzanine interface card was released and has provided us with a more flexible means to implement converged networking at the host level. There are a few things you can do with the Virtual Interface Card but one of the main advantages we have incorporated is carving out additional Ethernet interfaces on our ESX hosts. So what, you might say? For example, we created 2 NICs for ESX management which reside outside of the virtual distributed switch that services our guest traffic. This simplifies our build process and allows us to control and manage the host if there is an issue with the vDistributed Switch.

Cisco Nexus 1000v has been around for a little while but we have now implemented it to really bring the networking side of the virtual environment out to the control of our network engineers. As our environment has grown the desire and need to have visibility into our guest server traffic has increased. The N1KV has already been helpful in troubleshooting a few issues and we are likely to be implementing some QoS in the near future. Note, when you pair the QoS functions within UCS, the VIC and Nexus 1000v you have a very powerful tool for implementing your key compute functions in a virtual environment. You can garentee your service levels and have confidence in the implementation.

EMC PowerPath/VE development has continued and our driver issue with the VIC has been resolved for a while. The coolest new thing here is on the ESXi front, PP/VE is now supported with boot from SAN (that will be are next step moving forward).

VMware ESX 4.1 & 4.1i keeps us current on the newest tools and optimizations.

As you know IT and technology is very dynamic and we are already planning on changing things within 60 days by going to an ESXi build with boot from SAN, implementing new UCS 1.4 code so we can implement may of the new UCS features which include the new B230 blades with 16 cores and 256 GB memory all in a half size blade. Yes all this within 60 days. I can’t wait to see the workloads the B230 will handle. Oh, and we will also throw in a new EMC VMAX to push the performance level even higher.

IT in healthcare has a growing demand for performance, agility and uptime and the above technologies are what will allow organizations to handle the changes. Hang on tight it is going to be a fun ride.

November 16, 2010 - Posted by | Cisco UCS | , ,

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