Cisco – widely known as a networking infrastructure vendor – entered the blade server market in 2009. Their offering is called Unified Computing System, described by Gartner as a fabric-enabled, enterprise-class platform with good integration of networking, virtualization, management tools and storage. On the 2011 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Blade Servers they`re defined as a visionary vendor, and it will be interesting to see if they can challenge the 3 leaders Dell, IBM and HP.
The Cisco Unified Computing System is quite different from traditional blade systems, in that the server profiles (so called service profiles) is independent from the physical blade servers. An example to describe what this means is that a physical blade server might fail and be replaced, while the server profile keeps unique ID`s like MAC addresses, World Wide Names (WWN`s) and so on. If using boot from SAN rather than local disk drives, physical interaction is not required to get the system back online if a spare blade server is available.
The UCS core components
- Blade Chassis – Blade server enclosure
- Cisco UCS Manager – Embedded into the Fabric Interconnect. Provides management capabilities
- Cisco UCS fabric interconnect – Provides networking (Ethernet/Fibre Channel) and management for connected blades and chassis`
- Fabric Extenders – Provides connection between the interconnect fabric and the blade enclosures
A photo showing the Cisco Unified Computing System architecture is available here (cisco.com). In regards of management, all aspects of Cisco UCS can be managed through an XML API. This makes it possible for 3rd parties to offer management solutions, and integration with other products. An example of a 3rd party product is the Cisco UCS Iphone/Ipad application for managing and monitoring the system. Links for more information on the management model and the XML API is available in the resources section in the bottom of this article.
Cisco UCS PowerShell Toolkit
Based on a customer request from an early adaptor, Cisco provided PowerShell support for managing their UCS product through the XMP API. With the Microsoft automation strategy in mind, this was an excellent choice. It will make integration into products like System Center Orchestrator (formerly Opalis) very easy, and the also make the product attractive for enterprises. The PowerShell administration tool is available as a module part of the Cisco UCS PowerShell Toolkit.
A great way to learn using the Cisco UCS PowerShell Toolkit is downloading the Cisco UCS Emulator. This is a virtual machine image which can be imported into VMware Player or VirtualBox. When the VM is up and running you can access both the UCS Manager (http URL is shown when the VM has started) and the XML API. A great feature is that you can import the configuration from a production UCS to simulate administration changes in a lab environment.
Next, you can download the latest versions of both the Cisco UCS PowerShell Toolkit (aka UCSMPowerTool) and the PowerShell Toolkit User Guide from this website.
The installer will by default put the files in %programfiles%CiscoUCSMPowerToolkit:
CiscoUCSPS.dll is the assembly which can be imported as a module in Windows PowerShell 2.0 and later. You can either double-click LaunchUCSPS.bat or invoke StartUCSPS.ps1 from an existing PowerShell session to get started. Alternatively you can use Import-Module from an existing PowerShell session like this:
Import-Module “C:Program Files (x86)CiscoUCSMPowerToolkitCiscoUCSPS.dll”
I would suggest rather than installing to the Program Files folder (which requires administrative privileges), that Cisco generates a module manifest and install the module to the default PowerShell module directory (C:Users<username>DocumentsWindowsPowerShellModules).
When the module is imported we can use Get-Command with the –Module parameter to list all command inside the CiscoUCSPS module:
The current version of the module contains 149 cmdlets, so all commands are not shown in the above screenshot.
The first thing we need to do is connect to an instance of the UCS Manager. If using the Cisco UCS Emulator you can view the management IP address when the virtual machine has started:
We then use the Connect-UCSM cmdlet to connect to the UCS Manager:
The default credentials for the UCS Emulator is config/config.
Next we can start exploring cmdlets like Get-Blade and Get-Vlan. Note that by default the cmdlets outputs a lot of information for each object, so I`ve picked out a few properties to show using Format-Table:
Going further it`s easy to automate things like adding VLAN and assigning it to a vNIC template:
Although the PowerShell coverage isn`t 100% yet, it`s possible to administer all aspect of the UCS directly through the XML API from PowerShell using the Invoke-XmlCommand cmdlet.