Cisco UCS C-Series Rack Servers Review

Offers dynamic hardware and saves a lot of space, power, and management

What is our primary use case?

Our customers' primary use case is for hosting virtual machines. It could be a white solution. It could be service, and it could be their applications.

How has it helped my organization?

The first advantage of Cisco UCS C-Series Rack Servers is that you don't need to buy physical hardware like I used to have to do for each application. It is just software or operating systems. Now you have to buy one physical server which will host multiple virtual machines. It saves a lot on space, power, and management. If you're installing a VMware ESXi server on the UCS servers, the central servers are not there. So if you're using a V-Center ESXi server with multiple servers, you can manage the VMs plus you can have stand by storage in case one of them goes down.

It depends on your mission. We've started working on the other UC servers so there is no hardware dependency. If something goes, you can retrieve it from other servers so downtimes are minimized and the failure gets fixed fast, within minutes. Then you have a backup option. You can take a backup virtual machine. In case you install some patches or something that causes a server to go down, you can install it from the backups.

What is most valuable?

In terms of the features that I have found most valuable, that is the hardware, which is more dynamic. Cisco has the channels for the people to buy it. It has the red configurations, you can have more RAM and their CPUs have more code, depending on what kind of server you have, because there are three or four variations. So those options are available. Most of the customers we deal with have a smaller setting, like a voice solution. So they want the Cisco Call Manager. They go for the C 220 version, where they can employ two or three servers and two or three virtual machines, not the physical server. And they can get their voice setup working. If the customer is looking for more servers and more options, they go for more hardware, and a higher version of that server, such as 220, 240, and the like.

What needs improvement?

In terms of what could be improved, they could add their SSD drives instead of the normal, disc drives. That's the one thing.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have worked on both UC C-Series and E-Series servers. I used  E-Series servers when I was employed in Cisco. I worked on UC Series servers while I was managing the data center NetOne, which is located in Zambia, Africa.

In total I have worked on Cisco UCS C-Series Rack Servers for four years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

In terms of stability, I think it's mostly stable. The only thing I found as I started this phase is that you just need to wait for the replacement from Cisco, if you have the support for that server. Apart from that, I don't see any problems with the hardware on the E-Series and C-Series. Most of the cases with hardware or some software issues, the customer doesn't have the Smart Net account to get it fixed. That's why it gets delayed.

I remember one issue with the UC C-Series which I was troubleshooting last year when the software upgrade on one module in the E-Series for the phone had some problem. It was looping and kept on booting and the customer didn't have any support. It was difficult to resolve that issue.

Otherwise, I don't find many problems. I don't think we need many people managing it. There are no day-to-day issues with the physical hardware. The physical hardware barely has any problems throughout the year. Maybe once or twice. You may need to update the firmware for any bugs or any segregation of phones. Apart from that, I don't find any issues. Even if the power goes off it doesn't create any errors or any issues.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The E-Series' scalability is limited. In E-Series, it can be scaled up by adding additional blades, or you can buy another UC server. But with the C-Series, apart from available hardware space, you don't have many options to scale it.

I think the C-Series is 64GB or 120GB RAM and maybe two or three terabytes for processors. That's what I remember right now. The one server can support that. If you have more, you have capacity issues, and then you have to buy another server.

How are customer service and technical support?

Yes, I have used Smart Net. But I have rarely reported an issue with them.

I think nowadays Cisco tech support is not that good.

Sometimes you receive different solutions from different people. If they are not on the same page, if you're working with one tech engineer and they have gone off shift and you get another tech engineer, he may give you different answers or different solutions than what the previous engineer was talking about. But this is not specific to the UCS, but a general issue with Cisco retail work and open stack cases. I found them inconsistent.

How was the initial setup?

The first time you're doing the setup it is a little complex. But the second time is much easier. So I don't find any issues.

In terms of the physical server, it doesn't need much because it comes packed with everything, including RAM and processors. In some cases it may come separately so you have to open the server and put the processor, Ram and hard disk into the server. That's the only thing. After this is done, you have to install the hypervisor. Then there is the application, the virtual machines and things that they take over.

One server should not take more than one or two hours if your rack has big enough space and you have the railings. It should not take much time for mounting and powering on.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I think the pricing is high. Cisco has to look for bundling this solutions with other applications. They could sell basic options of the UC server along with other Cisco products and software. That would work. But as a standalone product, the customer looks at the price and it means they may not buy it when they see other products with the same construction at a lower price.

What other advice do I have?

I don't have any problems with the Cisco UC series. It serves its purpose.

I think their products are good. The only thing Cisco needs to work on is the cost part.

On a scale of one to ten, I would rate Cisco UCS C-Series Rack Servers an eight.

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