Cisco Designs UCS X-Series Servers and Intersight for Hybrid Cloud

It’s also laying the groundwork for a disaggregated, composable infrastructure play similar to HPE’s.

Wylie Wong, Regular Contributor

June 2, 2021

4 Min Read
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GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images

Cisco’s next-generation UCS servers and Intersight software are designed for hybrid and multi-cloud. The company has also laid the groundwork to eventually support pooling of disaggregated compute, storage, and memory resources – an approach similar to HPE’s composable infrastructure.

Cisco’s new UCS X-Series servers, announced Wednesday, will ship with Intersight, which IT can use to manage both private data centers and public cloud resources. The hybrid cloud management software is no longer optional, since modern applications run across multiple types of environments, DD Dasgupta, Cisco’s VP of product management for cloud and compute, told DCK.

“We’re not just going to build the biggest, baddest server out there,” he said. “It has to be integrated into a customer’s cloud strategy from day one, which is why we made Intersight mandatory, so on-premises server equipment is not sitting off on an island.”

The new Cisco UCS X-Series architecture supports distributed applications and blends the benefits of rack and blade servers, the company said.

Pools of Disaggregated Resources

In the future, the X-Series fabric combined with Intersight will enable users to pool compute resources, such as CPUs or GPUs, memory, or storage across multiple server nodes. This will enable them to provide the mix of resources each application needs, Dasgupta said.

Related:Cisco’s Plan for Delivering the Data Center (and More) as a Service

The Cisco UCS X-Series architecture will enable the company to enter the emerging composable disaggregated infrastructure market, said Ashish Nadkarni, group VP of IDC’s infrastructure systems, platforms, and technologies group.

“Effectively, what Cisco is doing is creating composable infrastructure. They are laying the groundwork for disaggregation to happen in the hardware,” Nadkarni told DCK.

Composable infrastructure disaggregates hardware into fluid pools of compute, storage, and networking resources. It allows enterprises to provision on-premises infrastructure resources as if they are using a public cloud service. It is said to save money and improve efficiency through higher utilization of resources.

Composable disaggregated infrastructure is the next step in the evolution of converged and hyperconverged systems, Nadkarni said.

While hyperconverged infrastructure only runs on hypervisors, composable infrastructure allows organizations to run on hypervisors, containers on bare metal, and any application on bare metal with no restrictions, he said.

Established players and startups alike are going after the emerging composable infrastructure market, which IDC predicts will reach $4.7 billion in revenue by 2023.

Related:Cisco Eyes Hybrid Cloud with Intersight Updates

Dell and HPE introduced composable infrastructure products several years ago, while startup Fungible released its own composable data center equipment this March. VMware has also recognized the market opportunity, pursuing its own composable disaggregated infrastructure through its Project Monterey initiative.

Cisco UCS X-Series Designed to Support 'All Workloads'

Cisco UCS X-Series servers will support two forthcoming fabrics that will enable hardware disaggregation: CXL and Gen-Z. These high-bandwidth, ultra-low latency interconnects will connect CPUs, GPUs or other accelerators, and memory, Nadkarni said.

The chassis is designed without a midplane, which removes limitations on scalability and future interconnect technology, the company said.

The upshot: Cisco UCS X-Series servers eliminate the age-old dilemma of whether companies should buy rack servers or blade servers for specific application requirements, Dasgupta said.

For example, some applications, such as Big Data, machine learning, or archiving, run best on rack servers because they may need more storage or memory, while other applications run best on blade servers, forcing companies to manage a mixed environment. The new UCS X-Series servers support all workloads with the best possible performance, Dasgupta said.

“We take the guesswork out. We have a uniform architecture that can support all workloads.”

Cisco UCS X-Series servers can be ordered now and will ship in July, the company said.

New Intersight Software, Integration with ThousandEyes

Cisco’s software announcements made on Wednesday include three new offerings within its family of SaaS Intersight tools:

  • Intersight Cloud Orchestrator. A workflow designer, available now, that allows IT administrators to create and automate workflows through a drag-and-drop interface.

  • Intersight Workload Engine. This provides a layer of abstraction on top of Cisco’s hardware, allowing for virtualized, containerized, and bare-metal workloads, and in the future, serverless workloads, Dasgupta said. It serves as a Cisco operating system for Hyperflex, providing consistent SaaS management, the company said.

  • Cisco Service Mesh Manager. This is a new extension to the Intersight Kubernetes Service, which allows enterprises to easily install and manage Kubernetes across a hybrid cloud environment. Cisco Service Mesh Engineer allows for the management of microservices, such as applying policies between them, Dasgupta said.

Cisco also said it would integrate its ThousandEyes networking monitoring tool with Cisco Nexus 9000 data center switches and Cisco Catalyst 8000 Edge Series for SD-WAN equipment. Cisco acquired the startup ThousandEyes last year.

Cisco also said Nexus Dashboard Orchestrator and Cisco Cloud ACI will add support for Google Cloud this fall.

Cisco Services Mesh Manager and ThousandEyes integration with SD-WAN equipment will be available in the 2021 third quarter. Cisco Intersight Workload Engine and ThousandEyes integration with Nexus switches will be available in the fourth quarter.

Staying Cloud Neutral and Innovating in Hardware

Dasgupta said there were two key messages in Cisco’s announcements Wednesday. First, Cisco is cloud neutral. The company’s strategy is to allow customers to use on-premises hardware, access public clouds, and manage hybrid cloud environments with software that features full-stack observability, automation, and security, he said.

“The second thing is when it comes to hybrid cloud, the innovation can’t just be on software. You have to continue to innovate on physical infrastructure, which is where you see UCS X-Series,” he says. “It’s the best server built for the age of hybrid cloud.”

About the Author(s)

Wylie Wong

Regular Contributor

Wylie Wong is a journalist and freelance writer specializing in technology, business and sports. He previously worked at CNET, Computerworld and CRN and loves covering and learning about the advances and ever-changing dynamics of the technology industry. On the sports front, Wylie is co-author of Giants: Where Have You Gone, a where-are-they-now book on former San Francisco Giants. He previously launched and wrote a Giants blog for the San Jose Mercury News, and in recent years, has enjoyed writing about the intersection of technology and sports.

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