Unified Computing: Collective Group or Single Responsibility

I have spent a great deal of time lately working with the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS). This computing platform is really quite impressive with its power and flexibility, but my expectations about the platform have really changed since I completed the UCS training. During the training classes that I attended, both the design and install courses emphasized that the Cisco UCS platform would be a collaborative platform that would bring the different groups like Storage, Network, and Server each working their own functional area of responsibility within UCS based on role permissions.  That sounded great.  The network team can create and trunk the VLANS and the storage team could add the boot targets as well as assign the LUNS. This platform is a true collective effort by all teams right?

Well needless to say this is not quite what I am seeing on different client’s sites, both small and large.  Within smaller organizations the IT person or group is expected to be able to administer and maintain multiple different skill sets for all the systems in the environment. On the opposite side you have the very large organizations, where compartmentalizing really comes into play.  I was a part of a pretty decent size virtualization project for the Acme Company (made up name). This project was a design and deploy of a new private cloud infrastructure that would be running on Cisco UCS platform. The second part of the project is all the P2V, V2V and P2P migrations with anything physical running on a UCS blade.

Since most of the blades would make up the internal cloud, the virtualization team was appointed the responsibility of the UCS platform. The idea of collaborate effort went right out the door once UCS, as a whole, had been assigned. The storage, network, and other teams were happy to help out with anything needed as long as it did not require going into UCS itself.  The line in the sand has been drawn and in my humble opinion, no other team wants to claim any responsibility on a system they do not understand. 

Does it really make sense to have all the different teams have access to their own part or is it better to have a person or team that controls the complete platform?  There is really not a great deal the network team would do inside UCS except create and remove VLANs from the templates and the system.  All trunking is done upstream. As far as the storage side of things, zoning and masking are still performed upstream, outside of the platform. Any boot to SAN will need boot targets written into the boot policy and not much more.

I am going to take a stand in that although the collective effort is a nice thought, I am not quite sure it is practical in the trenches of the larger organizations. Even if there is collaboration in the environment, there must be a person or group that has the ultimate responsibility of supporting the platform.  For those of you that are running some kind of unified platform in your environment, how are the roles and responsibilities assigned? 

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3 Comments on "Unified Computing: Collective Group or Single Responsibility"

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This is an awesome topic and very perceptive of you to pick up on it. What you are seeing here is a vendor reacting to something that has been happening in a few places before UCS came along. In quite a few shops where virtualization was doing well, you would find a VMware team that was doing the networking, storage and compute/virtualization for their part of the infra and “plugging in” to the larger environment where the silos still ruled their individual technology segments. UCS is a technology product that brings together everything bar the storage array into one piece… Read more »
Hi Steve Great topic, and one that is very close to my heart. I spend a lot of time with clients addressing just this point. Assisting them move from silo’d technologies to a Unified one. I echo your observations as I also teach Cisco UCS to our staff and customers and certainly do mention the option to use Role Based Access Control (RBAC)to farm out the relitive admin responseibilites to the various specialists in those areas. But thats all it is “an option” Cisco UCS is all about options in my view and as such is very adaptable to ftting… Read more »