With the release of UCS Central 1.3, there were three major areas of the product that were addressed. They include support for UCS M-Series modular servers, a new UCS Central front end including a completely re-worked HTML 5 user interface, and support for several additional features.
First, UCS M-Series Modular Servers are a new modular server available from Cisco. At a high level, this is a new chassis that supports 8 cartridges. Each cartridge currently has 2 independent Intel Xeon E3 servers for a total of 16 servers in the 2U chassis. The chassis provides shared power, network connections, and hard drives to the 16 servers. From a management perspective, the M-Series servers are managed using UCS Manager 2.5(1) MS with similar features as UCS B-Series and managed C-Series servers. With UCS Central 1.3, UCS Central supports managing UCS M-Series through UCS Manager 2.5(1) MS along with B-Series, managed C-Series, and UCS Mini environments with different versions of UCS Manager.
The second area of UCS Central that was addressed was the whole user experience and user interface. Over the years, we have gotten a lot of useful feedback that we have started incorporating in this new user interface. First, based on requests to stop using Flash (or Java), the new UCS Central 1.3 user interface is based on HTML 5. This makes it much easier to support on web browsers from multiple platforms. While this release makes progress on moving things to HTML 5, it should be noted that KVM sessions still require a Java Runtime Environment on the local system.
UCS Manager's user interface was designed to scale to several hundred servers. We have received a lot of customer and internal feedback that while UCS Central was easy to learn if you were already familiar with UCS Manager (and gave you a single IP address to manage servers, network, and storage for thousands of servers) it didn't work as well in large scale environments where you had to scroll through lists of thousands of systems to find the one you were looking for. We have reworked the interface to be primarily search and task based. While this will require a learning curve in the new interface, we believe that the improved search, filter, and task interfaces will greatly enhance the user experience.
Customers have also asked us to provide more personalized information. We have done this through a new personalized user dashboard where users can pin relevant information to quickly and easily see their summary at a glance. For instance, someone who wants to monitor IDs can pin the ID universe to their dashboard and have an at a glance summary of the usage of all types of IDs across the complete managed environment. They can then click on the expand button to get a more detailed view. While just about every object can be pinned to the user dashboard, not all objects have a summary view yet and we will be working on completing more of them in future releases.
One of the strengths of UCS Manager and UCS Central is that there are a lot of options that can be set and managed through policies and settings in software. Unfortunately, there are times where there are multiple ways to do the same task or change the same setting. It definitely hasn't been the simplest product to manage with all of the options and settings. In UCS Central 1.3's new user interface, we have spent a lot of time collecting customer feedback and streamlining and simplifying workflows. For instance, while there were multiple ways to create Global Service Profiles in the past, in the first version of the UCS Central 1.3 HTML 5 user interface you can only create it from a Global Service Profile Template. We will evaluate the feedback we receive on the current workflows to further enhance and expand them in the future.
It should be noted that while UCS Central 1.3 does have a new HTML 5 User Interface, the existing Flash-based user interface is still available in the product and is in fact the default interface at this time. We expect to have both interfaces available for several releases to allow customers to transition between them at their own pace.
Finally, there are a number of functional enhancements to UCS Central 1.3. Many of these were based on customer requests and feedback as well as improving the infrastructure of UCS Central. They include support for:
Scriptable vMedia which allows customers to point to a remote ISO image for boot through a Global Service Profile instead of having to open a KVM session after the Service Profile is deployed and then link to a remote image.
Support for the KVM Hypervisor in addition to VMware and Hyper-V support.
Scheduled back up times for both UCS Central as well as the managed UCS domains to provide flexibility in backup windows.
Support for using Domain Specific ID pools within Global Service Profiles in addition to the previous support through Local Service Profiles.
For UCS Central high availability environments, UCS Central 1.3 supports Network File Share (NFS) for the shared storage in addition to the previously supported RDM.
The ability to manually push global VLANs and VSANs to UCS Manager without having to deploy a Global Service Profile to improve the centralized VLAN and VSAN management.
While UCS Central has been architected to support 10,000 individual servers, scale testing is an on going process. In UCS Central 1.3, we are happy to report a 50% increase in the number of tested servers from 4000 to 6000 and the number of supported UCS Manager domains doubled, going from 100 domains to 200 domains. This meets the requirements of all but a couple of the largest UCS Central customers at this time.
The release is now available for download on Cisco.com. For existing customers, upgrades are simple. Download the ISO image, reboot the UCS Central virtual machine with the downloaded ISO image, select upgrade, and a few minutes later, the upgrade is finished.
For anyone interested in deploying UCS Central, we highly recommend the UCS Central Best Practices guide available at UCS Central Best Practice Guide --- Updated for Release 1.3(1a). We are hoping to have the guide updated to cover UCS Central 1.3, including the new HTML 5 user interface, in the next couple of weeks.
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