Most x86-architecture servers today include a management function commonly known as a baseboard management controller (BMC). The BMC is usually embedded on the motherboard or main circuit board of the server and includes a specialized service processor and firmware to monitor and manage the physical state of the server hardware. BMC functions and standards are defined in the IPMI specifications, originally developed jointly by Intel, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Dell, and NEC. The specification is maintained and published at Intel’s corporate website, helping ensure that BMC functions are consistently implemented on all x86 managed server platforms.

Intel includes BMCs on its customer reference board (CRB) designs, which are given to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and original design manufacturers (ODMs) to accelerate time to market and help ensure compliance with industry standards such as IPMI. Cisco has added value to the basic BMC functions by reengineering the BMC to make it an important part of the Cisco UCS architecture. This integration helps enable powerful, industry-leading unified computing features and the use of service profiles for server provisioning and change management.

Cisco UCS Manager runs in the Cisco UCS 6100, 6200, and 6300 Series Fabric Interconnects. It provides a wide range of powerful features for the integrated and unified computing, networking, and storage environment of Cisco UCS. The features include the rapid provisioning of infrastructure from shared pools of computing, networking, and storage resources and the rapid scaling and provisioning of IT infrastructure through the model-based management approach of Cisco service profiles.

Service profiles are used to provision and manage Cisco UCS C-Series Rack Servers and their I/O properties within a single management domain. They are created by server, network, and storage administrators and are stored in the fabric interconnects. Infrastructure policies needed to deploy applications are encapsulated in the service profile. The policies coordinate and automate element management at every layer of the hardware stack, including RAID levels, BIOS settings, firmware revisions and settings, server identities, adapter settings, VLAN and VSAN network settings, network quality of service (QoS), and data center connectivity.

Service profile templates are used to simplify the creation of new service profiles, helping ensure consistent policies within the system for a given service or application. Whereas a service profile is a description of a logical server and there is a one-to-one relationship between the profile and the physical server, a service profile template can be used to define multiple servers. The template approach makes it just as easy to configure one server as it is to configure hundreds of servers with perhaps thousands of virtual machines. This automation reduces the number of manual steps needed, helping reduce the opportunities for human error, improving consistency, and further reducing server and network deployment times.

Cisco IMC communicates vital information about each individual server to Cisco UCS Manager. Cisco IMC provides many diagnostic and health monitoring services that contribute to the holistic management environment enabled by Cisco UCS.

Diagnostic and health monitoring features provided with Cisco IMC include:

●   SNMP

●   XML API event subscription and configurable alerts

●   System event log

●   Audit log

●   Monitoring of field-replaceable units (FRUs), HDD faults, dual inline memory module (DIMM) faults, network interface card (NIC) MAC addresses, CPU, and thermal faults

●   Configurable alerts and thresholds

●   Watchdog timer

●   RAID configuration and monitoring

●   Predictive failure analysis of HDD and DIMM

●   Converged network adapters (CNAs)

●   Reliability, availability, and serviceability (RAS)

●   Network Time Protocol (NTP)

●   Graphical and command-line client

Cisco IMC in Standalone Mode on Cisco UCS C-Series Servers

Many customers deploy Cisco UCS C-Series servers in a standalone environment as x86 servers (see Figure above). In such a deployment, the servers are not integrated with other Cisco UCS components, such as the fabric interconnects, fabric extenders, or Cisco UCS Manager. When Cisco UCS C-Series servers are operating in standalone mode, administrators can use Cisco IMC as an industry-standard BMC through a web-based GUI, a secure shell (SSH)–based command-line interface (CLI), or the native API to configure, administer, and monitor the server. IMC provides users full control of the server, allowing complete configuration and management. It can be configured to operate in several different network modes, taking advantage of the dedicated management port or sharing the same physical interface as the host in Shared LOM or Cisco Card mode. With Cisco IMC, administrators can perform the following server management tasks:

●   Power on, power off, power cycle, reset, and shut down the server

●   Toggle the locator LED

●   Configure the server boot order

●   View server properties and sensors

●   Complete out-of-band storage configuration

●   Manage remote presence

●   Firmware management

●   Create and manage local user accounts and enable authentication through Active Directory and LDAP

●   Configure network-related settings, including NIC properties, IPv4, IPv6, VLANs, and network security

●   Configure communication services, including HTTP, SSH, and IPMI over LAN

●   Manage certificates

●   Configure platform event filters

●   Monitor faults, alarms, and server status

Cisco IMC is included with each Cisco UCS C-Series server at no additional cost to customers.

The latest release of IMC, version 3.0(1), introduces a number of new features to better align with the needs of our customers. Most of these new capabilities are the HTML5 web UI and KVM, Redfish support, and XML API transactional support. HTML5 provides customers with a simplified user interface and, along with a reliable KVM, eliminates the need for Java to use IMC.

The IPMI interface is not able to address the scale-out and cloud-based requirements for simplicity and security available in modern programming interfaces, so Intel and other server vendors have developed the new Redfish standard. Redfish is an open industry standard specification and schema that specifies a RESTful interface and uses JSON and OData to help customers integrate solutions within their existing tool chains. It establishes a new management for system control that is scalable, easy to use, and secure. Redfish is sponsored by the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF), a peer-review standards body recognized throughout the industry. Cisco UCS has adopted support for the Redfish standard on IMC version 3.0.

Redfish introduces a RESTful API to the IMC and is a simple, secure replacement for IPMI. Finally, XML API transactional support is catered toward users who utilize the programmability aspects of the IMC. Users can now configure multiple managed objects in a single transaction, allowing for quicker, simpler deployments.

Along with the many new software capabilities, Cisco has enhanced several of the utilities that rely on the IMC:

●   Cisco IMC Emulator

●   Non-Interactive Server Configuration Utility (NI-SCU)

●   Separation of SCU and diagnostics

●   Driver Update (Linux)

 

For More Information:

●   Cisco UCS Services: Accelerate Your Transition to a Unified Computing Architecture: http://www.cisco.com/en/US/services/ps2961/ps10312/Unified_Computing_Services_Overview.pdf

●   Cisco UCS C-Series Servers Integrated Management Controller CLI Configuration Guide, Release 3.0: http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/td/docs/unified_computing/ucs/c/sw/cli/config/guide/3_0/b_Cisco_UCS_C-Series_CLI_Configuration_Guide_301.html

●   Setup for Cisco IMC on Cisco UCS C-Series Servers: http://www.cisco.com/en/US/partner/products/ps10493/products_configuration_example09186a0080b10d66.shtml

●   Cisco UCS C-Series Rack-Mount Servers: http://www.cisco.com/en/US/partner/products/ps10493/tsd_products_support_series_home.html

●   Unified computing: http://www.cisco.com/en/US/partner/netsol/ns944/index.html

●   Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) Specifications: http://www.intel.com/design/servers/ipmi/spec.htm