Here's a condensed summary of our discussion with John Voss in a Q&A format. Ivan Oprencak was unable to make it to the event due to an emergency and John Voss kindly agreed to be the host.
John - We are going to be talking about virtualization and UCS Express but before that, what kind of challenges do you see people having in maintaining their applications in the branch environment?"?
There are a couple trends we are seeing
- 1. Companies are trying to consolidate applications to their data centers or private clouds or make use of public cloud infrastructure/applications.
- 2. Companies are trying to reduce the amount of IT gear (servers, appliances, etc) in the branch office to reduce costs.
This creates some challenges both in terms of application availability and performance, not to mention security challenges.
But remote site applications are being centralized into data centers. Why do we need a server at my remote sites?
The Wide Area Network (WAN) and/or Internet is not available 100% of the time - and even when it is available, applications may not run well or have acceptable performance when running out of the data center. There are also some applications that need to run locally in a branch for security or compliance reasons - this is why most companies opt to have some servers reside in their branch environment.
How does Cisco UCS for data center address this problem?
UCS is an ideal platform for enabling application consolidation in the Data center on a highly scalable and flexible, high performance computing platform. However, it does not really do much in terms of addressing the challenges I mentioned above - this is where UCS Express comes in.
Now can you tell us more about UCS Express?
Absolutely - UCS Express enables customers to take the new Cisco Integrated Services Router Generation 2 (ISR G2) and by adding a dedicated compute blade to the router, convert it to a blade server chassis capable of hosting up to 4 compute blades in a single router. One of the unique things about UCS Express is that it comes bundled with VMware's vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi) 4.1 enabling companies to deploy virtualization in their branch environment on a size, weight, and power efficient platform. More information is available at http://www.cisco.com/go/ucse .
Can you give us some examples of the way I would use UCS Express?
Sure - one example is that there is usually at least 1 server in the branch that is running infrastructure applications like Active Directory, DNS, DHCP, File and Print, and/or software distribution services for desktops in the branch - rather than continue to host this software on a standalone tower or rackmount server, you can run all of this virtualized on Windows Server 2008 R2 running on a blade in the router chassis.
I can run those applications on any server, why would I want to run them on UCS Express?
Typical servers require a lot of care and feeding and do not lend themselves to remote management/administration. Plus they consume a lot of power and it's very difficult to recover from any operating system or hardware failure. With UCS Express, you get all the benefits of a blade server - reduced power consumption, single integrated system that can be easily swapped out if there's ever a hardware problem, remote, lights out management built in, plus the fact that it does not take up any additional floor or rack space. Since applications and operating systems run virtualized out of the box on UCS Express, it's easy to deploy new services or recover from operating system or application failures - just deploy a new VM instead of building the OS from scratch and loading the applications. Plus since it sits inside the ISR G2 router chassis, you get all of the benefits of the services in the ISR like built in firewall, site to site virtual private networking support (VPN), and improved MTBF.
Thank you for the detailed explanation John! Can you tell us what the different components that make up UCS Express are?
The overall result is reduced operating expense, better reliability, and te ability to implement a "Lean branch architecture". UCS Express is a combination of Cisco Services Ready Engine hardware - these are the blade servers go inside the ISR G2 router, VMware ESXi Hypervisor 4.1, and local blade management software we call the Cisco Integrated Management Controller Express. The Services Ready Engine blade servers are available in two versions - a single core Intel x86 64 Bit processor system with 1 500GB SATA drive with up to 4 GB dedicated RAM - the SRE 700/710 module and a dual core Intel x86 64 Bit processor blade with 2 - 500 GB SATA drives capable of RAID 0/1 with up to 8 GB RAM - the SRE 900/910 module. The Services Ready Engine blades only consume a maximum of 50 Watts of power (35 Watts sustained) per blade, so they are almost 1/10 the power consumption of a standalone server - the support for the hardware and ESXi software is covered by the router SMARTNet contract, so there's no additional support costs regardless of how many blades you put in a single router chassis
Do you have an example with part numbers for this solution?
The part numbers for the Services Ready Engine Hardware are SM-SRE-700-K9, SM-SRE-710-K9, SM-SRE-900-K9, SM-SRE-910-K9. We also have "UCS Express" router bundles available - an example is the C2911-UCSE/K9 bundle. For more information see the ordering section of the UCS Express datasheet - http://www.cisco.com/en/US/prod/collateral/contnetw/ps5719/ps11273/data_sheet_c78-625000.html
I like ISR G2 but it’s so expensive.
The UCS Express ISR bundles start at $6,500 list price, so depending on the discount level, it ends up being not that more much more expensive than buying a standalone server in most cases.
From what you describe, it appears that ISR is used as a blade server chassis. Can you elaborate?
The services ready engines share power and network connectivity with the ISR G2 router - so depending on the router model, you can have up to 4 service ready engines in a single router chassis, each with dedicated processors, RAM, and disk. So the ISR G2 really does act the same as a blade server enclosure would in a comparable system in a data center.
I've a set of router 1941 in my infrastructure; I see that it is possible to install ISM-SRE-300-K9 with them. Could it run Esxi 4.1 in this model?
ESXi is only supported on the Service Ready Engine SM 700/710 and 900/910 modules. Unfortunately, the ISM-SRE-300-K9 does not have enough RAM/storage or a fast enough processor to run ESXi.
As a last question, Could I install a linux version like Debian instead of ESXi?
Not at this point in time - we do have another technology, AXP, which would enable you to deploy a Linux OS on the ISM-SRE-300.
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Message was edited by: Mohan Rao