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7 UCS Server Types Network Admins Need to Know

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Published on June 23, 2022

UCS servers are a huge part of the networking and server world. Cisco is so prominent in this space in the tech industry that it has become a household name. Every network admin worth their salt understands the differences between Cisco UCS products.

All IT pros need to start learning somewhere, though. So, today we will introduce seven different Cisco UCS server types that network admins need to know about.

What are Cisco UCS Servers?

Cisco has always been known as the go-to vendor for networking equipment, but they offer many other products, too. One of those product lines is the Cisco UCS servers.

Cisco released the UCS server architecture in 2009. UCS equipment was first deployed to Tutor Perini Corporation, with Cisco's first sales going to Fiserv. Since those first deployments, the USC product line has evolved considerably.

Cisco pioneered the component-based style and management of computing units with UCS. Other manufacturers now offer similar products as well. The UCS flavor of products comes in both blade-style chassis and 1U, 2U, and 4U sized chassis. Blade servers are included with the B-series UCS product line, while the C-series are full-sized servers for 19" racks.

Cisco B-Series M5 Servers

The Cisco UCS B-series servers are blade-style servers. Blade servers are like thin, mini servers with certain pieces of the hardware removed for efficiency. For example, blade servers don't have internal power supplies. Instead, the power supply is moved to the chassis that each blade server mounts in. In addition, the chassis has a power distribution network that powers all the blade servers attached to it.

Cisco still offers the M5 and M6 series blade servers for the UCS product line. Though, the M5 series is in broader use today due to how long they have been on the market.

The difference between the M5 and M6 series blades is not drastic. The M6 blades use newer Intel processors, offer more ram, and faster storage.

The M5 series has two basic blade types:

UCS B200 Specs:

  • Half-width blade server

  • 2nd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable Processor

  • 2 CPU sockets

  • Up to 9 TB of memory

  • Up to 2 GPUs

  • Includes Intel Optane PMem

UCS B480 Specs:

  • 2nd Gen Inter Xeon Scalable Processor

  • 4 CPU sockets

  • Up to 18 TB of memory

  • Up to 4 GPUs

  • Intel Optane PMem

UCS C220 M5

The UCS C220 is a standalone 1U rack server. It can be used as a standalone server or within a UCS deployment. That makes using the UCS C220 very versatile. Likewise, this device can support both virtualized workloads and bare-metal applications.

UCS C220 Specs:

  • 2nd Gen Intel Scalable Processors

  • Up to 24 DDR4 Dimms

  • Support for Intel Optane memory

  • Supports ten SFF 2.5" hard drives or four LFF 3.5" hard drives

  • 12 Gbps SAS RAID controller

  • Dual 10G Network ports

UCS C240 M5

The UCS C240 is very similar to the UCS C220. The most significant difference is the size and the amount of storage expandability the device offers. The C240 essentially has the same processor and memory requirements as the C220, but it is a 4U rackmount server and can hold up to twenty-six 2.5-inch hard drives. In addition, there is a specialized chassis version of the C240 that includes support for up to 10 NVME PCIe drives as well. This server can be used as an independent server, or it can be used as part of a UCS deployment strategy like the C220, too.

UCS C240 Specs:

  • 2nd Gen Intel Scalable Processors

  • Up to 24 DDR4 Dimms

  • Support for Intel Optane memory

  • Supports 26 SFF 2.5" hard drives or 12 LFF 3.5" hard drives

  • 12 Gbps SAS RAID controller

  • Dual 10G Network ports

  • Module M.2 or secure SD ports that can be used for boot

UCS S3260 Storage Server

If your deployment strategy requires lots of storage with as few components as possible, you might be interested in the S3260 storage server. This unit comes with expandability up to 720 TB of local storage and up to two server nodes built-in. In addition, both server nodes come equipped with 40G networking. That makes the S3260 an excellent choice for high-performance, high-capacity SAN or NAS deployments.

UCS S3260 Specs:

  • Dual socket CPU with support for Intel Xeon scalable CPUs or Intel E5-2600 V4 CPUs

  • Up to 1.5TB DDR4 support per processing node (3TB total support)

  • NVMe and flash memory support

  • Dual 40Gbps System I/O controllers

  • Unified I/O support for ethernet or fiber channel connections to existing SAN or NAS appliances

UCS Mini M5

The UCS Mini server chassis is used with blade servers such as the B200 and B480 products listed above. This chassis can also use the full-sized C-series servers listed above as well.

The UCS Mini is meant to be deployed in areas where space and IT constraints are minimal. This product gives IT network admins the option of deploying an entire server and networking solution in a single unit. It's common to deploy the UCS Mini in branch offices, remote offices, point-of-sale locations, etc.

All UCS Mini devices start with at least one B200 blade server. From there, network admins can customize the appliance as needed. For instance, each Mini chassis can be packed with B200 blade servers. Or, network admins can outfit their UCS Mini with other types of products.

UCS E-series

The UCS E-series is an older line of products. There are no two ways about it. So, why are we mentioning these devices? Simple. They are still being sold and are still widely used out in the wild. Cisco still asks about these devices on some certification tests. That means you need to know about them.

The E-series servers are blade-like servers that fit into the Cisco 4000 series routers. They are designed to move node computation down to the edge network.

Cisco advertises these products as solving a hybrid deployment issue. Moving applications to a distant data center increases application latency and potential communication failure. Moving applications on-site reduces those bottlenecks but increases the total cost of ownership and complexity.

The E-series products mount inside of a Cisco 4000 series router, though. That gives these mini servers full access to networking and fabric interconnects while providing enough horsepower for local application processing. These products solve the TCO and complexity issues, too.

Why do Network Admins Need to Know Cisco UCS servers?

We've just listed seven different types of UCS servers that all network admins should know about. Each of these Cisco UCS servers is commonly used today. All these products are mentioned in Cisco certification tests and programs, too.

This article only serves as a brief introduction to each of these seven different UCS server types. Of course, Cisco has more products in its UCS equipment line. New network admins, or IT pros hoping to become a network admin or sysadmin, will want to understand each of these devices well. Even if your organization doesn't use these products, you will eventually work with an organization that does. So, go ahead and take a deeper dive into the UCS product line.


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