Monday, June 13, 2011

Making the Cisco UCS Light "Click"

Found myself working booth duty at a vForum the other day – joy joy J - Actually not bad, was the perfect audience for UCS.  As long as you attack booth duty with zeal and don't find yourself being like this person described in Thom Singer's blog post ... you'll typically meet some interesting people.

At the event I was surprised at how many people said “I didn’t know Cisco made servers”.  I was also frustrated at how many times I heard, “oh yeah, you guys make blades TOO” – I came up with this story that seemed to turn on the light in people’s heads to make them understand the “S” in UCS doesn’t mean “Server”.

Me – “So you’re a VMware admin.  Imagine you’ve spent hours or days creating the best VM in the world with all the OS patches, Apps, application updates.”
Customer – “Yeah, that’s what I do all day.”

Me – “Ok, so now the business comes to you and says, “that App is awesome! .. we need 20 more” .. do you immediately go into vCenter and start creating 20 more from scratch ? .. editing all the settings, mounting an ISO to install the OS, reinstalling all the apps ?”
Customer – “ no, of course not, that would be ludicrous.”

Me – “Exactly! You would just clone it … so why do we do this with hardware when we need a new host ? Manually configuring all the BIOS settings, pressing F1 to get the WWN, and MAC info, updating the firmware, setting the boot order, enabling VT, turning off USB, etc, etc ,etc”
Customer – “Because that’s the way x86 works”

Me – “It doesn’t have to.  Think of UCS as a Hypervisor for hardware .. You love VMware because it encapsulates all the OS/App work in a VM container that’s then easy to manipulate/update and reuse.  Cisco UCS does the same thing for hardware by stripping all the state information from the server, making it stateless and then encapsulating it in a Service Profile”

I then spend a few minutes talking stateless computing, boot from SAN, Service Profiles, firmware updates, updating templates instead of individual machines and how it all works.  I would say this jump start conversation resulted in some of the best conversations I had, because they immediately got it when they could relate it back to what they do every day.

You’re probably already telling this exact story and it just took this long for me to come up with my script J … I’m not a morning person.  But if you’re not telling it this way, it’s a great elevator pitch that makes the light go off and they start to ask the right questions.


  1. Wow, you mean Cisco decided to copy HP?

  2. No, actually not. Please read this post - - then please describe how HP virtualizing a few things makes it stateless, compared to Cisco's way.

  3. I think that the whole argument about who copied who for what technology always falls apart pretty quickly. The truth is that each new generation / platform / technology will take / copy / steal / borrow inspiration from previous. Who is the best at pulling all these things together AND can communicate that to customers?

  4. "UCS as a Hypervisor for hardware"... Sigh.

    Before going to analogies, perhaps start by first going into what is exactly the content of "stateless computing". If one breaks it down, there are for sure areas that can be done to normal servers with hardware abstracting systems software.

    As for hardware abstraction and who was first, totally agree on the argument on first with technologyh vs. best with marketing (or invention vs. innovation capability). Still, anyone remember Egenera? ItelliCloud 360 servers? Ohwell...