Cisco UCS B-Series Review

Does what it is supposed to in the way the company represents with little room for improvement

What is our primary use case?

Primarily, we use UCS to run our virtualization stack.  

What is most valuable?

I think UCS is pretty typical of all blade servers in what is most valuable. We use it to try and save rack space. I think the ratio in terms of the number of units and the number of servers that we can get each chassis is quite good. We have a significant rack space saving in that regard. These B-series can hold up to eight servers.  

What needs improvement?

In terms of room for improvement, I think there is room for improvement with the service profile. Cisco products are technically quite bulky if you ask me. You really need to be very proficient technically to deploy it and to understand the assignment of the service profiles before you can really make the most of it. The product comes with a lot of technical overhead. I know they have advancements that are coming and I foresee they are ready to address that problem at least to a certain extent.  

For the purposes it is built for, I can not really think of any room for improvement, honestly. It is as advertised; it is doing what it is supposed to in the way the company represents it. I do not think they are really in need of any other improvement this year than what I know they already have on the roadmap. The only thing I can think of might be improving the user-friendliness.  

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using Cisco UCS B-series (Unified Computing System) for probably five years.  

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The B-series is definitely stable, that is for sure. We rarely have any issues with the B-series. If there are any issues, we are covered by the four-hour response window and we can get parts replaced within a few hours if there's any faulty hardware. Stability is something I would say is over 90 percent better than most other products.  

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The scalability of this Cisco product goes without saying because it is what the B-Series was designed to do. You can always add in additional blade servers to your existing chassis. So the scalability is really good and something Cisco built into the product.  

How are customer service and technical support?

We have had contact with the technical support and this is usually for hardware replacements. That covers faulty memory or CPUs or motherboards — that kind of thing. It is typically day-to-day issues with hardware that we need service for.  

I would say that Cisco really excels in day-to-day operations — if you are talking about hardware replacement and things like that. Their model and framework are really mature. They know exactly what to do. The replacements are fast, the engineer that is assigned also knows what he is doing. So far our experience with Cisco technical support is pretty positive.  

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We came to UCS from HP Proliant servers. When we transitioned into the Cisco UCS series, we obviously found that there were pros and cons in comparing these products.  

I think the HP Proliant user interface and user-friendliness are better than UCS. Cisco had an advantage in coming to the market later. They had the advantage in redeveloping and redesigning the server compute from scratch. So they designed it with management in mind. They deployed service profiles and they have a central overview of all the server hardware using the UCS B-series, and I think this was what really convinced us to transition to the Cisco hardware. Of course, the pricing is positioned better than the HP Proliant series which influenced the decision as well.  

How was the initial setup?

Because we already have established the connects and configured the initial instance, putting in additional B-series blades is a breeze because everything is assigned to the service profile.  

So the initial setup depends on "how initial" you are talking about. If you are talking about the very first configuration including the server interconnects setup, then it is a bit cumbersome. If you are talking about additional setups after that, then it is a breeze. You really need in-depth knowledge about how service profiles and assignments are used before you can really make it work. This is coming from someone who had previous experience with the HP Proliant product where they did not really have service profiles. It is a different way of doing things.  

What about the implementation team?

We had the luxury of engaging a vendor, the initial setup was all done by the vendor, which was good for us. It was really fast and was far enough along within half a day that they were able to deploy it.  

What other advice do I have?

Advice that I might want to give to someone considering the product is that I would say they really have to know their own use case to determine whether UCS is applicable as a solution for what they need. The B-Series is really meant for data center deployment. I would not propose or suggest it for small or medium enterprises simply because the initial investment is quite high. You need to get a server interconnection if you get a chance. And if you are not looking to potentially deploy a large number of servers in the near future, then B-series is really not necessary — it is overkill.  

On a scale from one to ten (where one is the worst and ten is the best), I would rate the product as a nine-out-of-ten.  

To make it 10, the user-friendliness needs to be improved. Right now the user experience really detracts from the technical abilities of the product. The users need to have too much technical know-how. Cisco should make administration much easier and more straight forward. Maybe there could be some automation and translation of all the operations so that the user does not have to be so technically adept to operate it.  

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?


Which version of this solution are you currently using?

B-200 M4 and M5
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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