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Week One of Cisco UCS Implementation Complete

July 5, 2010 2 comments

The first week of Cisco UCS implementation has passed.  I wish I could say we were 100% successful, but I can’t.  We’ve encountered two sticking points which are requiring some rethinking on our part.

The first problem we have run into revolves around our SAN.  The firmware on our MDS switches is a bit out of date and we’ve encountered a display bug in the graphical SAN management tool (Fabric Manager).  This display bug won’t show our UCS components as “zoneable” addresses.  This means that all SAN configurations relating to UCS have to be done via command line.   Why don’t we update our SAN switch firmware?  That would also entail updating the firmware on our storage arrays and it is not something we are prepared to do right now.  It might end up occurring sooner rather than later if doing everything via command line is too cumbersome.

The second problem involves connecting to two separate L2 networks.  This has been discussed on various blogs such as BradHedlund.com and the Unified Computing Blog.  Suffice it to say that we have proven that UCS was not designed to directly connect to two different L2 networks at the same time.  While there is a forthcoming firmware update that will address this, it does not help us now.  I should clarify that this is not a bug and that UCS is working as designed.  I am going to guess that either Cisco engineers did not think that customers would want to connect in to two L2 networks or that it was just a future roadmap feature.  Either way, we are working on methods to get around the problem.

For those who didn’t click the links to the other blogs, here’s a short synopsis:  UCS basically treats all uplink ports equally.  It doesn’t know about the different networks so it will assume any VLAN can be on any uplink port.  ARPs, broadcasts, other terms and how they all work apply here.  If you want a better description, please go click the links in the previous paragraph.

But the entire week was not wasted and we managed to accomplish quite a bit.  Once we get passed the two hurdles mentioned above, we should be able to commence our testing.  It’s actually quite a bit of work to get this far.  Here’s how it pans out:

  1. Completed setup of policies
  2. Completed setup of Service Profile Templates
  3. Successfully deployed a number of different server types based on Service Profiles and Server Pool Policy Qualifications
  4. Configured our VM infrastructure to support Palo
  5. Configure UCS to support our VM infrastructure
  6. Successfully integrated UCS into our Windows Deployment system

Just getting past numbers 1 and 2 was a feat.  There are a number of policies that you can set so it is very easy to go overboard and create/modify way too many.   The more you create, the more you have to manage and we are trying to follow the K.I.S.S principle as much as possible.   We started out by having too many policies, but eventually came to our senses and whittled the number down.

One odd item to note: when creating vNIC templates, a corresponding port profile is created under the VM tab of UCS Manager.  Deleting vNIC templates does not delete the corresponding port profiles so you will have to manually delete them.  Consistency would be nice here.

And finally, now that we have a complete rack of UCS I can show you the just how “clean” the system looks.

Before

The cabling on a typical rack

After

A full rack of UCS - notice the clean cabling

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Let’s hope week number two gets us into testing mode…..

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Prepping for our Cisco UCS Implementation

The purchase order has finally been sent in.  This means our implementation is really going to happen.  We’ve been told there is a three week lead time to get the product, but Cisco is looking to reduce it to two weeks.  A lot has to happen before the first package arrives.  Two logistical items of note are:

  • Stockroom prep
  • Datacenter prep

What do I mean by “Stockroom prep?”  A lot actually.  While not a large UCS implementation by many standards, we are purchasing a fair amount of equipment.  We’ve contacted Cisco for various pieces of logistical information such as box dimensions and the  number of boxes we can expect to receive.   Once it gets here, we have to store it.

Our stockroom is maybe 30×40 and houses all our non-deployed IT equipment.  It also houses all our physical layer products (think cabling) too.    A quick look at the area dedicated to servers reveals parts for servers going back almost ten years.  Yes, I have running servers that are nearly ten years old <sigh>.    Throw in generic equipment such as KVM, rackmount monitors, rackmount keyboards, etc and it adds up.   Our plan is to review our existing inventory of deployed equipment and their service histories.  We’ll then bump up that info with our stockroom inventory to see what can be sent to disposal.   Since we don’t have a lot of room, we’ll be really cutting down to the bone which introduces an element of risk.  If we plan correctly, we’ll have a minimum number of parts in our stockroom to get us through our migration.  If we are wrong and something fails, I guess we’ll be buying some really old parts off eBay…

As for prepping the data-center, it’s a bit less labor but a lot more complex.  Our data-center PDUs are almost full so we’ll be doing some re-wiring.  As a side note, the rack PDU recommended by our Cisco SE has an interesting connector to say the least.  These puppies run about $250 each.  The PDUs run over $1200 each.   Since we’ll be running two 42U racks of equipment, that equals four of each component.  That’s almost $6K in power equipment!!

As another data-center prep task, we will need to do some server shuffling.  Servers in rack A will need to move to a different rack.  No biggie, but it takes some effort to pre-cable, schedule the downtime, and then execute the move.

All-in-all, a fair amount of work to do in a short time-frame.