Book Review: Implementing Cisco UCS Solutions

I have been demonstrating, selling and installing Cisco Unified Computing Systems for several years and there are *still* aspects to the system that I haven’t completely mastered. So, when I saw an opportunity to review a new book from Packt Pub called:

Implementing Cisco UCS Solutions by Farhan Ahmed Nadeem and Prasenjit Sarkar

I jumped at the chance. Hopefully, this book will make the path to a complete understanding of the UCS system easier than wading through the Cisco Documentation.

I have spent a week with the book and it’s as thorough a survey of the UCS hardware, software and implementation processes as I have seen. The authors include a wealth of details that help you understand all the components and the management of a UCS system.

There are 12 Chapters in all with each roughly 30 pages in length:

Chapter 1: Cisco UCS Physical Architecture and Installing UCS Hardware
Chapter 2: Setting Up Lab Using Cisco UCS Emulator
Chapter 3: Configuring Cisco UCS Using UCS Manager
Chapter 4: Configuring LAN Connectivity
Chapter 5: Configuring SAN Connectivity
Chapter 6: Creating Identity and Resource Pools
Chapter 7: Creating and Managing Service Profiles
Chapter 8: Managing UCS through Routine and Advanced Management
Chapter 9: Virtual Networking in Cisco UCS
Chapter 10: Configuring Backup, Restore, and High Availability
Chapter 11: Cisco UCS Failure Scenarios Testing
Chapter 12: Third-party Application Integration

The book is 360 pages and includes a well crafted 11 page dual column index for locating specific topics. The Kindle version use links from the index to the material and the downloadable PDF option does not.

Most Enterprise Datacenters divide hardware responsibilities into subject silos:

  1. Servers
  2. Storage
  3. Networking

Comprehending the UCS system forces a new level of knowledge of all three “silos” and that’s the real challenge of the mastering a UCS Administration and Implementation role: If you’re strong in one area you’ll need to raise your game in the other 2.

That’s why this book will be a solid reference in any UCS shop: it covers all areas with equal rigor and detail.

How do you add memory to a blade server? Covered.

How do you “isolate and prioritize” storage traffic over a common network uplink? Covered.

How do you get iSCSI boot service from a system that doesn’t support VLAN tagging? Covered.

And, maybe most importantly to an engineer interested in Cisco UCS without access to the hardware: there’s a chapter on the “Cisco UCS Platform Emulator” software that can be installed and configured on a laptop.

The final chapter covering 3rd party application integration for EMC’s UIM, VMware’s vSphere and the Cisco Power(CLI)Tool set is also very useful… It can help an Orchestration software engineer pick the right tool to connect management system together.

Notable ommissions from the book include the UCS Director “orchestration” product, the UCS Central (multi-UCS system manager) and the Microsoft Hyper-V UCS Management… perhaps version 2 will extend the materials to 400+ pages and include these new and additional automation/management products.

In the vendor wars between Cisco, VMware, HP, Dell to own your datacenter: integration and automation are key benefits. Cisco has done well moving beyond their “route switch” stronghold to bring their key assets into an integrated role controlling and configuring racks of Intel-based servers as a Unified Compute System based upon a massively scalable networked I/O architecture.

Overtime, all racks of compute, storage and networking will look more and more like what Cisco has assembled. So, learning the features and concepts of a UCS system will have great benefits for IT systems professionals that want to stay current with best practices. This book is an essential reference for those design concepts.

Do you want to get started with OpenStack?

Well, I do and the *best* information I have found thus far are the VMware Professional’s vBrownbag videos to get a good overview. Check them out in iTunes at:

Start with the “Intro to OpenStack Part 1 and 2” by Michael Metral of RackSpace dated Feb 19, 2013 and Feb 26, 2013. Then there are episodes on major OpenStack projects mixed in with a lot solid VMware technical information.

Amazon leads the commercial public cloud space.VMware leads the commercial private cloud space.and Openstack is the Linux-like revolution to both those commercial juggernauts.

I just like leveraging *free* stuff. So, I’m headed deeper into that cloudscene.