Physical is New Virtual

I went to EMC office at Milford, MA last week for a 5 day training class on Vblock Administration. As you may have known, VCE Vblock is the industry’s first and leading converged infrastructure with compute, network, and storage from industry leaders. For the compute, it uses Cisco UCS. If you have followed my blog, you should know that I have blogged about the UCS emulator and XML management APIs.

One key differentiator of UCS is the service profile and related service profile template. The service profile is a server’s identity – it abstracts out the basic characteristics of a blade server, for example, UUID, MAC addresses, boot policy, etc. It can be dynamically applied to a blade server, meaning the physical blade server does not carry these characteristics and can be replaced without any impact. It also means that the same blade server can become a different server with a different service profile. It’s much like the virtual machine hardware.

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A service profile can also be moved onto another blade server (to be exact, chassis slot owns a service profile, not blade server) either in the same or other chassis as long as managed by same UCS manager. After the new blade server boots up, it runs exactly the same OS/applications as before although it’s really a different physical server. Does it sound familiar to you? I bet. In some way, it’s like vMotion in virtual world except that it’s not a live but cold migration.

Similar to virtual machine templates, UCS uses service profile templates. A service template aggregates pools (UUID, MAC, WWPN, WWNN), policies (LAN: QoS, Dynamic vNIC connection, flow control, threshold; SAN: threshold; Server: adapter, BIOS, boot, local disk, firmware, vNIC/vHBA placement) and connectivity (vNIC, vHBA) templates, and can be instantiated to new service profiles on the fly. This helps not only speed up the deployment of servers, but also standardize the configurations of blade servers.

With these being said, I hope you would agree with me that UCS has virtualization features built-in. It should not come as a surprise if you know the history of UCS: one of VMware founders Edouard Bugnion had led the design of UCS at Nuova Systems which was acquired by Cisco in May 2008.

You may now wonder, “Do I still need VMware vSphere or other hypervisors if I have UCS already?” Great question. I will talk about it later, and more importantly, explain when you do and when you don’t. Stay tuned.

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