The Cisco UCS X-Series is the company’s newest chassis server. We have started to see longer-running blade/ chassis servers get refreshed as the industry prepares for the next generation of components. Cisco, like others, is refreshing its chassis to offer more cloud management and higher-speed networking with higher-power components.
Cisco UCS X-Series Modular Server
The Cisco UCS X-Series is the company’s blade server that is 7U in height with eight slots. Since this is a blade chassis, the concept is that one can upgrade nodes over time while retaining the ecological benefits of re-using power supplies, fans, and the chassis.
Something that is more modern with the UCS X-Series is that the enclosure uses a backplane-less design to connect the compute nodes to the network fabric. Here is a quick look at how that works.
Not having a backplane is important for a few reasons. First, failed backplanes were immensely difficult to service since to get to them requires offlining multiple nodes, then getting into a large chassis. Second, older-generation blade solutions with backplanes were often limited by the PCB material and pins so that one could not upgrade to faster networking without replacing the backplane. At STH, we were the first to go in-depth in our Dell EMC PowerEdge MX review. There we can see that Dell is doing the same thing. The reason for this trend is that while we have 100GbE as common today, the future of 400GbE to the node is coming, and removing the backplane for higher reliability and future upgradeability makes a lot of sense.
The first nodes are the dual 3rd gen Intel Xeon Scalable “Ice Lake” processor nodes. Each has two CPUs, up to 6x 2.5″ HDD/ SSDs (including NVMe), and spaces for two VICs. Cisco also has a full set of DDR4 channels and Optane PMem 200 support on the nodes.
Cisco has its new VICs and includes an internal bridge between them which is something a bit more unique.
As one would imagine, Cisco has a cloud management solution for the new blade servers.
This is not going to be an inexpensive solution and that is perhaps Cisco’s biggest challenge. The UCS line has great engineering, but the market has been moving towards lower-cost scale-out nodes. Cisco UCS is far from being known as a low-cost leader so it is really targeting higher-end enterprise and government deployments sitting alongside traditional Cisco networking infrastructure. While this is a solution targeted at Cisco’s current installed base, it is still fun to see a new solution like this.