Running a Lean Branch Office with the Cisco UCS Express

Centralized management brings organizations more control over resources with fewer equipment assets in the field. There are many cases where equipment may be needed in a branch office to speed access time to a resource or eliminate the dependency on a network link to the central datacenter. It is very common to see at least one, if not multiple, servers at the branch office to provide file/print services or user authentication. Perhaps the servers are providing some service that is specialized to a particular business (banking applications come to mind here). Whatever service is being provided, sometimes it is better to maintain local access at the branch. So there are servers to maintain at the branch office, as well as networking gear and other such devices.

What if you could consolidate your branch office services with your router? That is exactly what the Cisco UCS Express is meant to do. The UCS Express is a Services-Ready Engine (SRE) module that works in Integrated Services Router Generation 2 (ISR G2) routers. This module is a server that you can run VMware ESXi on to provide branch office services. Here is an example of an ISR G2 device:

 

Cisco UCS Express ISR G2 port schematics

 

The slots you see at the bottom of the device is where the SRE UCS Express modules are located. A UCS Express module is seen below.

 

Cisco UCS Express main schematics

 

Here are a couple of the highlights of this architecture:

  • (1) or (2) 500 GB drive options are available (hot swap hard drive)
  • (1) or (2) Core CPU’s are available
  • 4 or 8GB of RAM available
  • iSCSI Initiator Hardware offload if you need to connect to an external iSCSI device
  • There is direct SRE to LAN connectivity which reduces cabling
  • Maintenance is covered under SMARTnet

This architecture provides all that a branch office may need by virtualizing several branch office services onto the SRE UCS Express Module. The ESXi instance can be managed centrally by your existing vCenter installation. This gives you the benefits of local service access and centralized management while reducing the equipment needs at the branch office. Pretty slick.

If you would like to discuss how this architecture might be able to help your organization or want further technical details, please feel free to contact me.

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