This month Cisco announced a new addition to the UCS family – a mini Fabric Interconnect, called the UCS 6324 Fabric Interconnect, which unlike the ones before it plugs directly into the UCS 5108 chassis. With connectivity for up to 15 servers (8 blade servers and up to 7 direct-connect rack servers), the 6324 is geared toward small environments.
Previously known as “Palo”, Cisco’s virtualized adapter allows for a server to split up the 10Gb pipes into numerous virtual pipes (see below) like multiple NICs or multiple Fibre Channel HBAs. Although the card shown in the image to the left is a normal PCIe card, the initial launch of the card will be in the Cisco UCS blade server.
So, What’s the Big Deal?
When you look at server workloads, their needs vary – web servers need a pair of NICs, whereas database servers may need 4+ NICs and 2+HBAs. By having the ability to split the 10Gb pipe into virtual devices, you can set up profiles inside of Cisco’s UCS Manager to apply the profiles for a specific servers’ needs. An example of this would be a server being used for VMware VDI (6 NICs and 2 HBAs) during the day, and at night, it’s repurposed for a computational server needing only 4 NICs.
Another thing to note is although the image shows 128 virtual devices, that is only the theoretical limitation. The reality is that the # of virtual devices depends on the # of connections to the Fabric Interconnects. As I previously posted, the servers’ chassis has a pair of 4 port Fabric Extenders (aka FEX) that uplink to the UCS 6100 Fabric Interconnect. If only 1 of the 4 ports is uplinked to the UCS 6100, then only 13 virtual devices will be available. If 2 FEX ports are uplinked, then 28 virtual devices will be available. If 4 FEX uplink ports are used, then 58 virtual devices will be available.
Will the ability to carve up your 10Gb pipes into smaller ones make a difference? It’s hard to tell. I guess we’ll see when this card starts to ship in December of 2009.