How Cisco is Modernizing Management of Its UCS Franchise

Cisco spiffs up control with new cloud-based Intersight dashboard, putting systems management as-a-service on the map.

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Cisco Systems has been building and selling its Unified Computing Systems line of pre-configured, converged servers since the launch in March 2009, and it’s been a source of both pride and profit for the company ever since.

A UCS consists of proprietary data center architecture, servers, plenty of dense storage and a set of management software and services based on high-end Intel processors. Cisco partners provide all hardware and software that isn't in the networking realm--except the main servers, which Cisco itself makes.

Since then, the systems have undergone five server updates and sold more than 60,000 systems worldwide. By any measure, this is a successful product line.

However, Cisco hadn’t spiffed up the system’s management controls in a long time. So, on Sept. 21, the world’s largest internet networking provider added smart new cloud-service management controls with Cisco Intersight, a dashboard that also works with Cisco HyperFlex Systems.

Oh No, Not Another IT Acronym (SMaas?)

Cisco Intersight is designed to simplify data center operations by delivering systems management as-a-service (no, the company didn’t refer to this as SMaaS—yet, anyway), alleviating the requirement to maintain islands of on-premises management infrastructure. Complete system lifecycle management is delivered by Intersight using machine learning, analytics and automation, the company said.  

Many enterprise application architectures are evolving into scale-out and multi-site deployment models, delivered by containers, microservices and Kubernetes schedulers. Alongside this trend, DevOps approaches are accelerating the rate of application development and continuous feature delivery. Cisco said that Intersight addresses these challenges, helping IT staff optimize operations while offering an intuitive user experience.

Cisco said a number of its customers are already participating in an engineering preview of Intersight, connecting thousands of UCS and HyperFlex systems for testing and feedback. 

What's New in the Package

Key features in Intersight include:

  • Pervasive simplicity: Cisco Intersight features a user interface that can be customized by user role. As a cloud-based service, new functionality is delivered via portal updates without burdening users with upgrades, and the experience scales seamlessly as users  directly connect new systems for management. 
  • Analytics combined with tight integration with the Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) constantly improve the assistance provided through the recommendation engine. The platform is designed to constantly learn to help make daily IT operations easier.
  • Expertise: Tight Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) integration and insights from Cisco and the UCS Community provide recommendations and best practices.
  • Continuous optimization: The ability for the Intersight platform to provide actionable intelligence will grow stronger over time from the power of cloud-based machine learning. It can learn from the collective experience of the UCS user community, as well as the best practices of Cisco experts and peers. This will enable better predictive analytics and resource utilization to be provided through the recommendation engine.
  • Agile delivery: IT can rapidly respond to business demands and frequent changes while maintaining the policy enforcement designed to implement safe and reliable business services Cisco Intersight is API-driven and Cisco UCS and HyperFlex are fully programmable systems, supporting development and operations tool chains for continuous integration and delivery.
  • Constant protection: The Cisco Intersight service adheres to the stringent security standards of Cisco InfoSec and helps enable secure communication between the Cisco Intersight SaaS platform and managed endpoints, allowing applications to be deployed and updated securely.

Cisco Intersight will become generally available in Q4 2017 and is integrated and designed to coexist with existing UCS and HyperFlex management tools, so users can adopt Cisco Intersight as they see fit.

Intersight will be available in an on-premise deployment model in the future. It is is built on an extensible architecture with OData standards-based RESTful APIs and connector framework simplifying third party software and hardware integrations. 

Deployment models:

  • Base Edition will be available at no charge. It includes global health monitoring and inventory, a customizeable dashboard, the HyperFlex Installer to quickly deploy clusters and the ability to context-launch the UCS Manager, IMC and HyperFlex Connect element managers.
  • Essentials Edition includes all the functionality of the Base edition as well as policy-based configuration with service profiles, firmware management with scheduled updates, Hardware Compatibility Listing (HCL) compliance checks and upgrade recommendations, and other features.

For more information, go here. You can attend a live webcast on this topic Sept. 26 at 10 a.m. Pacific time by registering here.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he has...