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Cisco speeds UCS server I/O and extends fabric

Cisco has added a new I/O module to its UCS range as well as announcing new interconnects and an interface card to improve the scalability of clusters of the servers
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

Cisco has improved the I/O performance of its UCS servers, with the aim of improving cluster throughput and manageability.

The updates for the Unified Computing System (UCS) servers, announced on Wednesday at Cisco Live in Las Vegas, are designed to boost performance and scalability of the product range.

"These improvements should help to communicate that Cisco intends to allow their UCS environments to scale as customer requirements evolve, as well as nullifying some of the competitor FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt] about bandwidth limitations of UCS," Richard Fichera, an infrastructure analyst with Forrester, wrote in a blog on Wednesday. "They do not remove the fact that one of UCS's weaknesses is that bandwidth scaling is decoupled from the scaling of the number of server nodes, but should move the bar higher for UCS users."

The networking company announced the improvements as three additions to its UCS servers — a new fabric extender, an improved fabric interconnect and a virtual interface card. Cisco first entered the server market with its UCS servers in March 2009.

The UCS 6248UP 48-port Fabric Interconnect links 320 servers together into a single system that can be managed by Cisco UCS Manager. It doubles the bandwidth available to 960Gbps, compared to the 520Gbps of the previous interconnect 6120XP, and raises the port count by 28. The UCS 2200 Fabric Extender, which was also announced, is designed to connect UCS servers to the Fabric Interconnect. It has 32 10GbE ports and a hardware forwarding capacity of 640Gbps, versus 160Gbps for the preceding UCS 2100 series of extenders.

These improvements should help to communicate that Cisco intends to allow their UCS environments to scale as customer requirements evolve.
– Richard Fichera, Forrester

The Cisco UCS Virtual Interface Card 1280 is an adapter that helps to improve input and output rates in virtualised environments. It has eight ports that can be used for either the 10GbE or Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) protocols.

The rest of the UCS systems remain unchanged. "We expect that the upgrades of the I/O infrastructure will be followed at some point by improvements in compute nodes and possibly expanded scaling of the environment over time in order to respond to evolving customer demands," Fichera wrote on his blog.

VMware was integrated into the UCS software stack as well, as Cisco introduced VMware vCentre for the Cisco UCS servers and UCS Express on Cisco Integrated Services Routers. This helps to tie VMware's virtualisation technology into the UCS fabric.

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