Cisco UCS C4200: Bringing the Internet of Things to life

 In Data Center, Hardware, Storage

The promise of the Internet of Things is that it will transform industries through new data and insights.

The reality of the IoT is that organizations need more and more processing power to handle all that data, ideally close to the source.

Cisco’s new UCS C4200 series rack server chassis addresses that reality to fulfill the promise of IoT for a number of industries.

Here’s what the highest-density product in Cisco’s lineup can do.

More power, less space

The C4200 has two major advantages for handling the kind of compute-intensive workloads big data creates.

1. A very dense computing platform.

The C4200 combines the higher CPU and memory density of a B-series blade server with the higher local storage capacity of a C-series rack server. It’s composed of a standalone C4200 chassis that powers, cools, and supplies 24 local disks to up to four two-socket C125 M5 AMD EPYC-based server nodes.

As the core counts in modern CPUs explode, the design of the cache and interconnects between other cores, RAM, and other components on a CPU (the un-core) have to become more sophisticated to keep all those cores busy with the data they need.

AMD’s EPYC processors are designed around core complexes, allowing a single CPU to easily support up to 32 Simultaneous Multi-Thread (SMT) cores, with each CPU connected to eight channels of DDR4 memory. A fully loaded C4200 chassis can squeeze up to 256 physical CPU cores, 8 TBs of memory and 42 TB of direct attached storage into just two rack units of space.

2. Can be managed from anywhere with an internet connection.

Because this is a UCS system, Cisco Intersight allows you to connect and manage the C4200 from anywhere, carrying on Cisco’s tradition of having a single management point for all servers, now in the cloud.

You can disassociate physical hardware form the logical configuration of the equipment, down to hardware identities, to make it easier to provision servers. If you have a hardware problem, you can change the hardware and apply the same profile, and an application running on top doesn’t know the difference because all identities stayed the same.

Because it’s templated and built out with policies, if you configured it the right way, every time you roll out hardware you can do so as quickly as possible with zero mistakes.

Who can benefit from Cisco’s C4200

The density of the computing power and the ability to manage servers remotely offer a number of industries and organizations a new choice for handling massive amounts of data, especially in locations where space is at a premium.

The highly parallel nature of these types of workloads can take full advantage of as many cores and as much memory bandwidth as they can get.

Here are some of the top applications:

Colocation. If you have a colo that charges a hefty price per rack space, now you can squeeze four servers into two units worth of space and can scale up to 64 cores, run a ton of virtual machines on one or two servers, and have two other servers running some sort of high-performance database, for example.

In-memory databases. The ability to support a lot of memory with a high bandwidth between the memory and CPU helps drive the performance of memory-intensive applications. Each AMD EPYC supports eight channels of DDR4 memory, providing large amounts of bandwidth for applications like in-memory databases or other high-performance computing applications.

Oil and gas. Oil rigs don’t typically have a lot of spare space, so the C4200 would maximize what’s available while offering plenty of power for crunching the GIS data that energy companies use to find oil reservoirs.

Farming. A farmer might use IoT devices to measure minerals or moisture content in the soil. That generates a lot of data in rural areas that might not have a fast enough WAN link to stream all that data back to operations. But if there’s a small footprint for a server like the C4200, there’s a place for that data to be processed before it’s sent off to the main location.

Retail. Whether retailers are collecting data on foot traffic, pushing real-time promotions to customers in store, or tracking shipments, the smart stores of the future have a lot of data to process in a place where space is at a premium.

Looking into the future

This is the first time Cisco servers are running on AMD processors. AMD’s Zen Microarchitecture is a big advancement over everything it’s had in the past. It supports SMT and the chip design can scale to potentially double the amount of cores.

Initially, this server will offer more compute in less space for industries crunching a lot of data, especially in remote locations. But ultimately, all kinds of organizations will be able to take advantage of this kind of dense computing platform to save space, take advantage of remote management, and maximize CPUs and memory.

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