Posts Tagged ‘FI’

Upgrading Cisco UCS Fabric Interconnects

March 17, 2016

I have to do this first, as this is a high-risk change for any environment:

disclaimerDISCLAMER: I ACCEPT NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY DAMAGE OR CORRUPTION OF DATA THAT MAY OCCUR AS A RESULT OF CARRYING OUT STEPS DESCRIBED BELOW. YOU DO THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK.

And now to the point. Cisco has two generations of Fabric Interconnects with the third generation released just recently. There is 6100 series, which includes 6120XP and 6140XP. Second generation is 6200 series, which introduced unified ports and also has two models in its range – 6248UP and 6296UP. And there is now a third generation of 40Gb fabric interconnects with 6324, 6332 and 6332-16UP models.

We are yet to see mass adoption of 40Gb FIs. And some of the customers are still upgrading from the first to the second generation.

In this blog post we will go through the process of upgrading 6100 fabric interconnects to 6200 by using 6120 and 6248 as an example.

Prerequisites

Cisco UCS has a pair of fabric interconnects which work in an active/passive mode from a control plane perspective. This lets us do an in-place upgrade of a FI cluster by upgrading interconnects one at a time without any further reconfiguration needed in UCS Manager in most cases.

For a successful upgrade old and new interconnects MUST run on the same firmware revision. That means you will need to upgrade the first new FI to the same firmware before you can join it to the cluster to replace the first old FI.

This can be done by booting the FI in a standalone mode, giving it an IP address and installing firmware via UCS Manager.

The second FI won’t need a manual firmware update, because when a FI of the same hardware model is joined to a cluster it’s upgraded automatically from the other FI.

Preparation tasks

It’s a good idea to make a record of all connections from the current fabric interconnects and make a configuration backup before an upgrade.

ucs_backup

If you have any unused connections which you’re not planning to move, it’s a good time to disconnect the cables and disable these ports.

Cisco strongly suggests to also upgrade the firmware on all software and hardware components of the existing UCS to the latest recommended version first.

Upgrading firmware on the first new FI

Steps to upgrade firmware on the first new fabric interconnect are as follows:

  • Rack and stack the new FI close enough to the old interconnects to make sure all cables can reach it.
  • Connect a console cable to the new FI, boot it up and when you are asked “Is this Fabric interconnect part of a cluster”, select NO to boot the FI in a standalone mode.
  • Assign an IP address to the FI and connect to it using UCS Manager.
  • Upgrade the firmware, which will reboot the fabric interconnect.
  • Reset the configuration on the FI, which will cause another reboot:
    • # connect local-mgmt
      # erase config

  • Once the FI is upgraded and reset to factory defaults you can proceed with joining it to the cluster.

Replacing the first FI

  • Determine which old FI is in the subordinate mode (upgrade a FI only if it’s in subordinate mode!) and disable server ports on it.
  • Shut down the old subordinate FI.
  • Move L1/L2, management, server and Ethernet/FC/FCoE uplink ports to the new FI.
  • Boot the new FI. This time the new FI will detect the presence of the peer FI. When you see the following prompt type YES:
    • Installer has detected the presence of a peer Fabric interconnect. This Fabric interconnect will be added to the cluster. Continue (y/n) ?

  • Follow the console prompts and assign an IP address to the new FI. The rest of the settings will be pulled from the peer FI.

Once the new FI joins the cluster you should see the following equipment topology in UCS Manager (This screenshot was made after the primary role had been moved to the new FI. Initially you should see the new FI as subordinate.):

two_fis

  • At this stage make sure that all configuration has been applied to the new FI and you can see all LAN and SAN uplinks and port channels.
  • Enable server ports on the new FI and reacknowledge all chassis.

Reacknowledging a chassis might be disruptive to the traffic flow from the blades. So make sure you don’t have any production workloads running on it. If you have two chassis and enough capacity to run all VMs on either of them, you can temporarily move VMs between the chassis and reacknowledge one chassis at a time.

Replacing the second FI

You will need to promote the new FI to be the primary, before proceeding with an upgrade of the second FI. To change the roles, use SSH to log in to the old FI, which is currently the primary (you can’t change roles from the subordinate FI) and run the following commands:

# connect local-mgmt
# cluster lead b
# show cluster state

The rest of the process is exactly the same.

After the upgrade, if needed, reconfigure any of the links which may have had their port numbers changed, such as if you had an expansion module in the old FIs, but not on the new FIs.

References

Cisco has a guide which has a step by step procedures for upgrading fabric interconnects, I/O modules, VIC cards as well as rack-mount servers. Refer to this guide for any further clarifications:

 

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Traffic Load Balancing in Cisco UCS

December 21, 2015

Whenever I deploy a Cisco UCS at a customer the question I get asked a lot is how traffic flows within the system between VMs running on the blades and FEX modules, FEX modules and Fabric Interconnects and finally how it’s uplinked to the network core.

Cisco has a range of CNA cards for UCS blades. With VIC 1280 you get 8 x 10Gb ports split between two FEX modules for redundancy. And FEX modules on their own can have up to 8 x 10Gb Fabric Interconnect facing interfaces, which can give you up to 160Gb of bandwidth per chassis. And all these numbers may sound impressive, but unless you understand how your VMs traffic flows through UCS it’s easy to make wrong assumptions on what per VM and aggregate bandwidth you can achieve. So let’s dive deep into UCS and shed some light on how VM traffic is load-balanced within the system.

UCS Hardware Components

Each Fabric Extender (FEX) has external and internal ports. External FEX ports are patched to FIs and internal ports are internally wired to the blade adapters. FEX 2204 has 4 external and 16 internal and FEX 2208 has 8 external and 32 internal ports.

External ports are connected to FIs in powers of two: 1, 2, 4 or 8 ports per FEX and form a port channel (make sure to use “Port Channel” link grouping preference under Chassis/FEX Discovery Policy). Same rule is applied to blade Virtual Interface Cards (VIC). The most common VIC 1240 and 1280 have 4 x 10Gb and 8 x 10Gb ports respectively and also form a port channel to the internal FEX ports. Every VIC adaptor is connected to both FEX modules for redundancy.

chassis_network

Fabric Interconnects are then patched to your network core and FC Fabric (if you have one). Whether Ethernet uplinks will be individual uplinks or port channels will depend on your network topology. For fibre uplinks the rule of thumb is to patch FI A to your FC Fabric A and FI B to FC Fabric B, which follows the common FC traffic isolation principle.

Virtual Circuits

To provide network and storage connectivity to blades you create virtual NICs and virtual HBAs on each blade. Since internally UCS uses FCoE to transfer FC frames, both vNICs and vHBAs use the same 10GbE uplinks to send and receive traffic. Worth mentioning that Cisco uses Data Center Bridging (DCB) protocol with it’s sub-protocols Priority Flow Control (PFC) and Enhanced Transmission Selection (ETS), which guarantee that FC frames have higher priority in the queue and are processed first to ensure low latency. But I digress.

UCS assigns a virtual circuit to each virtual adaptor, which is a representation of how the traffic traverses the system all the way from the VIC port to a FEX internal port, then FEX external port, FI server port and finally a FI uplink. You can trace the full path of each virtual adaptor in UCS Manager by selecting a Service Profile and viewing the VIF Paths tab.

vif_paths

In this example we have a blade with four vNICs and two vHBAs which are split between two fabrics. All virtual adaptors on fabric A are connected through VIC port channel PC-1283 which is represented as port channel PC-1025 on the FEX A side. Then traffic leaves FEX A and reaches the Fabric Interconnect A which sends the traffic out to the network core through port channel A/PC-1.

You can also get the list of port channels from the FI CLI:

# connect nxos
# show port-channel summary

ucs_portchannels

Network Load Balancing

Now that we know how all components are interconnected to each other, let’s discuss the traffic flow in a typical VMware environment and how we achieve the massive network throughput that UCS provides.

As an example let’s take a look at the vSwitch where your VM Network port group is configured. vSwitch will have two uplinks – one goes to Fabric A and the other one to Fabric B for redundancy. Default load balancing policy on a vSwitch is “Route based on the originating port ID”, which essentially pins all traffic for a VM to a particular uplink. vSphere makes sure that VMs are evenly distributed between the uplinks to use all network bandwidth available.

From each uplink (or vNIC in UCS world) traffic is forwarded through an adapter port channel to a FEX, then to a Fabric Interconnect and leaves UCS from a FI uplink. Within UCS traffic is distributed between port channel members using source/destination IP hash algorithm. Which is even more granular and is capable of very efficient traffic distribution between all members of a port channel all the way up to your network core.

ucs_loadbalancing

If you look at the vSwitch you’ll see that with UCS each uplink shows the maximum available bandwidth from vNIC and is not limited to a port channel member speed of 10Gb. Why is this so powerful? Because with UCS you don’t need to slice adapter’s available bandwidth between different types of traffic. Even though you provision multiple vNICs and vHBAs for the vSphere hosts, UCS uses the same port channel links (20Gb in the example below) from the VIC adapter to transfer all traffic and takes care of load balancing for you.

vswitch_uplinks

You may legitimately ask, if UCS uses the same pipe to transfer all data regardless of which vSwitch uplink is being used, then how can I make sure that different types of traffic, such as vMotion, storage, VM traffic, replication, etc, do not compete for the same pipe? First you need to ask yourself if you can saturate that much bandwidth with your workloads. If the answer is yes, then you can use another great feature available in UCS, which is QoS. QoS lets you assign a minimum available bandwidth guarantee on a per vNIC/vHBA basis. But that’s a topic for another blog post.

References

In this post I tried to summarise the logic behind UCS traffic distribution. If you want to dig deeper in UCS network architecture, then there’re a lot of great bloggers out there. I would like to call out the following authors: