Cisco UCS 101: Installation and Basic Config

Below you’ll find step-by-step instructions on setting up a Cisco UCS environment for the first time.  I wanted to post this as a general guideline for those new to UCS who may be setting up their first lab or production environments.  It’s important to note that UCS is highly customizable and that configuration settings will be different between environments.  So, what you’ll see below is a fairly generic configuration of UCS with an ESXi service profile template.  Also important to note is that since the purpose of this is to aid UCS newcomers in setting up UCS for the first time, I’ve done many of these steps manually.  Most of the below configuration can be scripted and pools and policies can be created in the service profile template wizard but to really learn where things are at the first time, I recommend doing it this way.

This is a pretty lengthy blog post, so if you’d like it in .pdf format, click here.

Cabling UCS

There’s really not more to say on a general level that the pictures don’t already show. Based on how your environment is set up and the type of connectivity you require, the cabling could be much different than what is pictured above. The important things to note, however, are that you will always only connect a particular I/O Module to its associated Fabric Interconnect (as shown above) and for Fiber channel connections, “Fabric A” goes to “Switch A” and likewise for Fabric B. Each switch is then connected to each storage processor. Think of the Fabric Interconnects in this scenario as separate initiator ports on a single physical server (which is how we’ll configure them in our service profile) and the cabling will make much more sense.

Configuring the Fabric Interconnects

Connect to the console port of Fabric Interconnect (FI) “A”, which will be the primary member of the cluster. Power on FI-A and leave the secondary FI off for now. Verify that the console port parameters on the attached computer are as follows “9600 baud”, “8 data bits”, “No parity”, “1 stop bit”. You will then be presented with the following menu items (in bold, with input in green):

Enter the configuration method. (console/gui) ? console
Enter the setup mode; setup newly or restore from backup. (setup/restore) ? setup
You have chosen to setup a new Fabric interconnect. Continue? (y/n): y
Enter the password for “admin”: password

Confirm the password for “admin”: password
Is this Fabric interconnect part of a cluster(select ‘no’ for standalone)? (yes/no) [n]: yes
Enter the switch fabric (A/B) []: A
Enter the system name: NameOfSystem
(NOTE: “-A” will be appended to the end of the name)
Physical Switch Mgmt0 IPv4 address : X.X.X.X
Physical Switch Mgmt0 IPv4 netmask : X.X.X.X
IPv4 address of the default gateway : X.X.X.X
Cluster IPv4 address : X.X.X.X
(NOTE: This IP address will be used for Management)
Configure the DNS Server IPv4 address? (yes/no) [n]: y
DNS IPv4 address : X.X.X.X
Configure the default domain name? (yes/no) [n]: y
Default domain name: domain.com
Apply and save the configuration (select ‘no’ if you want to re-enter)? (yes/no): yes

Now connect to the console port of the secondary FI and power it on. Once again, you will be presented with the following menu items:

Enter the configuration method. (console/gui) ? console
Installer has detected the presence of a peer Fabric interconnect. This Fabric interconnect will be added to the cluster. Continue (y/n) ? y
Enter the admin password of the peer Fabric interconnect: password
Physical Switch Mgmt0 IPv4 address : X.X.X.X
Apply and save the configuration (select ‘no’ if you want to re-enter)? (yes/no): yes

Both Fabric Interconnects should now be configured with basic IP and Cluster IP information. If, for whatever reason you decide you’d like to erase the Fabric Interconnect configuration and start over from the initial configuration wizard, issue the following commands: “connect local-mgmt” and then “erase configuration”

Configuring UCS

After the initial configuration and cabling of Fabric Interconnect A and B is complete, open a browser and connect to the cluster IP address and launch UCS Manager:

Configuring Equipment Policy

Go to the “Equipment” tab and then “Equipment->Policies”:

The chassis discover policy “Action:” dropdown should be set to the amount of links that are connected between an individual IOM and Fabric Interconnect pair. For instance, in the drawing displayed earlier each IOM had four connections to its associated Fabric Interconnect. Thus, a “4 link” policy should be created. This policy could be left at the default value of “1 link” but my personal preference is to set it to the actual amount of connections that should be connected between an IOM and FI pair. This policy is essentially just specifying how many connections need to be present for a chassis to be discovered.

For environments with redundant power sources/PDUs, “Grid” should be specified for a power policy. If one source fails (which causes a loss of power to one or two power supplies), the surviving power supplies on the other power circuit continue to provide power to the chassis. Both grids in a power redundant system should have the same number of power supplies. Slots 1 and 2 are assigned to grid 1 and slots 3 and 4 are assigned to grid 2.

Configuring Ports

Go to the “Equipment” tab and then “Fabric Interconnects->Fabric Interconnect A/B” and expand any Fixed or Expansion modules as necessary. Configure the appropriate unconfigured ports as “Server” (connections between IOM and Fabric Interconnect) and “Uplink” (connection to network) as necessary:

For Storage ports, go to the “Equipment” tab and then “Fabric Interconnects->Fabric Interconnect A/B” and in the right-hand pane, select “Configure Unified Ports”. Click “Yes” in the proceeding dialog box to acknowledge that a reboot of the module will be necessary to make these changes. On the “Configure Fixed Module Ports” screen, drag the slider just past the ports you want to configure as storage ports and click “Finish”. Select “Yes” on the following screen to confirm that you want to make these changes:

Next, create port channels as necessary on each Fabric Interconnect for Uplink ports. Go to the “LAN” tab, then “LAN->LAN Cloud->FabricA/B->Port Channels->Right-Click and ‘Create Port Channel'”. Then give the port channel a name and select the appropriate ports and click “Finish”:

Select the Port Channel and ensure that it is enabled and is set for the appropriate speed:

Next, configure port channels for your SAN interfaces as necessary. Go to the “SAN” tab and then “SAN Cloud->Fabric A/B->FC Port Channels->Right Click and ‘Create Port Channel'”. Then give the port channel a name and select the appropriate ports and select finish:


Select the SAN port channel and ensure that it is enabled and set for the appropriate speed:

Updating Firmware

What follows are instructions for manually updating firmware to the 2.1 release on a system that is being newly installed. Systems that are currently in production will follow a slightly different set of steps (e.g. “Set startup version only”). After the 2.1 release, firmware auto install can be used to automate some of these steps. Release notes should be read before upgrading to any firmware release as the order of these steps may change over time. With that disclaimer out of the way, the first step in updating the firmware is downloading the most recent firmware packages from cisco.com:

There are two files required for B-Series firmware upgrades. An “*.A.bin” file and a “*.B.bin” file. The “*.B.bin” file contains all of the firmware for the B-Series blades. The “*.A.bin” file contains all the firmware for the Fabric Interconnects, I/O Modules and UCS Manager.

After the files have been downloaded, launch UCS manager and go to the “Equipment” tab. From there navigate to “Firmware Management->Download Firmware”, and upload both .bin packages:

The newly downloaded packages should be visible under the “Equipment” tab “Firmware Management->Packages”.

The next step is to update the adapters, CIMC and IOMs. Do this under the “Equipment” tab “Firmware Management->Installed Firmware->Update Firmware”:

Next, activate the adapters, then UCS Manager and then the I/O Modules under the “Equipment” tab “Firmware Management->Installed Firmware->Activate Firmware”. Choose “Ignore Compatibility Check” anywhere applicable. Make sure to uncheck “Set startup version only”, since this is an initial setup and we aren’t concerned with rebooting running hosts:

Next, activate the subordinate Fabric Interconnect and then the primary Fabric Interconnect:

Creating a KVM IP Pool

Go to the “LAN” tab and then “Pools->root->IP Pools->IP Pool ext-mgmt”. Right-click and select “Create Block of IP addresses”. Next, specify your starting IP address and the total amount of IPs you require, as well as the default gateway and primary and secondary DNS servers:

Creating a Sub-Organization

Creating a sub-organization is optional, for granularity and organizational purposes and are meant to contain servers/pools/policies of different functions. To create a sub-organization, right-click any “root” directory and select “Create Organization”. Specify the name of the organization and any necessary descriptions and select “OK”. The newly created sub-organization will be visible in most tabs now under “root->Sub-Organizations”:

Create a Server Pool

To create a server pool, go to “Servers” tab and then “Pools->Sub-Organization->Server Pools”. Right-Click “Server Pools” and select “Create Server Pool”. From there, give the Pool a name and select the servers that should be part of the pool:

Creating a UUID Suffix Pool

Go to the “Servers” tab and then “Pools->Sub-Organizations->UUID Suffix Pool”. Right-Click and select “Create UUID Suffix Pool”. Give the pool a name and then create a block of UUID Suffixes. I usually try to create some two letter/number code that will align with my MAC/HBA templates that allow me to easily identify a server (e.g. “11” for production ESXi):

Creating MAC Pools

For each group of servers (i.e. “ESXi_Servers”, “Windows_Servers”, etc.), create two MAC pools. One that will go out of the “A” fabric another that will go out the “B” fabric. Go to the “LAN” tab, then “Pools->root->Sub-Organization”, right-click “MAC Pools” and select “Create MAC Pool”. From there, give each pool a name and MAC address range that will allow you to easily identify the type of server it is (e.g. “11” for production ESXi) and the fabric it should be going out (e.g. “A” or “B”):

Whole blog posts have been written on MAC pool naming conventions, to keep things simple for this initial configuration, I’ve chosen a fairly simple naming convention where “11” denotes a production ESXi server and “A” or “B” denotes which FI traffic should be routed through. If you have multiple UCS pods and multiple sites, consider creating a slightly more complex naming convention that will allow you to easily identify exactly where traffic is coming from by simply reviewing the MAC address information. The same goes for WWNN and WWPN pools as well.

Creating WWNN Pools

To create a WWNN Pool, go to the “SAN” tab, then “Pools->root->Sub-Organization”. Right-click on “WWNN Pools” and select “Create WWNN Pool. From there, create a pool name and select a WWNN pool range. Each server should have two HBA’s and therefore two WWNNs. So the amount of WWNNs should be the amount of servers in the pool multiplied by 2:

Create WWPN Pools

Each group of servers should have two WWPN Pools, one for the “A” fabric and one for “B”. Go to the “SAN” tab, then “Pools->root->Sub-Organization”. Right-click on “WWPN Pools” and select “Create WWPN Pool”, from there, give the pool a name and WWPN range:

Creating a Network Control Policy

Go to the “LAN” tab, then “Policies->root->Sub-Organizations->Network Control Policies”, from there, right-click “Network Control Policies” and select “Create Network Control Policy”. Give the policy a name and enable CDP:

Create vLANs

Go to the “LAN” tab and then “LAN->LAN Cloud->VLANS”. Right-click on “VLANs” and select “Create VLANs”. From there, create a VLAN name and ID:

Create vSANs

Go to the “SAN” tab and then “SAN->SAN Cloud->VSANs”. Right-Click “VSANs” and select “Create VSAN”. From there, specify a VSAN name, select “Both Fabrics Configured Differently” and then specify the VSAN and FCoE ID for both fabrics:

After this has been done, go to each FC Port-Channel in “SAN” tab “SAN->SAN Cloud->Fabric A/B->FC Port Channels” and select the appropriate VSAN. Once the VSAN has been selected, “Save Changes”:

Creating vNIC Templates

Each group of servers should have two templates. One going out the “A” side of the fabric and one going out the “B” side. Go to the “LAN” tab, then “Policies->root->Sub-Organization->vNIC Templates”. Right-click on “vNIC Templates” and select “Create vNIC Template”. Give the template a name, specify the Fabric ID and select “Updating Template”. Also specify the appropriate VLANs, MAC Pool and Network Control Policy:

Creating vHBA Templates

Each group of servers should have two templates. One going out the “A” side of the fabric and one going out the “B” side. Go to the “SAN” tab, then “Policies->root->Sub-Organization->vHBA Templates”. Right-click on “vHBA Templates” and select “Create vHBA Template”. Give the template a name, specify the Fabric ID and select “Updating Template”. Also specify the appropriate WWPN Pool:

Creating a BIOS policy

For hypervisors, I always disable Speedstep and Turbo Boost. Go to the “Servers” tab, then “Policies->root->Sub-Organizations->BIOS Policies”. From there, right-click on “BIOS Policies and select “Create BIOS Policy. Give the policy a name and under “Processor”, disable “Turbo Boost” and “Enhanced Intel Speedstep”:

Creating a Host Firmware Policy

Go to the “Servers” tab, then “Policies->root->Sub-Organizations->Host Firmware Packages”. Right-click “Host Firmware Packages” and select “Create Host Firmware Package”. Give the policy a name and select the appropriate package:

Create Local Disk Configuration Policy

Go to the “Servers” tab, then “Policies->root->Sub-Organizations->Local Disk Config Policies”. Right-click “Local Disk Config Policies” and select “Create Local Disk Configuration Policy”. Give the policy a name and under “Mode:” select “No Local Storage” (assuming you are booting from SAN):

Create a Maintenance Policy

Go to the “Servers” tab, then “Policies->root->Sub-Organizations->Maintenance Policies”. Right-click “Maintenance Policies” and select “Create Maintenance Policy”. From there, give the policy a name and choose “User ack”. “User ack” just means that the user/admin has to acknowledge any maintenance tasks that require a reboot of the server:

Create a Boot Policy

Go to the “Servers” tab, then “Policies->root->Sub-Organizations->Boot Policy”. Right-click “Boot Policy” and select “Create Boot Policy”. Give the policy a name and add a CD-ROM as the first device in the boot order. Next, go to “vHBAs” and “Add SAN Boot”. Name the HBA’s the same as your vHBA templates. Each “SAN Boot” vHBA will have two “SAN Boot Targets” that will need to be added. The WWNs you enter should match the cabling configuration of your Fabric Interconnects. As an example, the following cabling configuration…:

Should have the following boot policy configuration:

Creating a Service Profile Template

Now that you have created all the appropriate policies, pools and interface templates, you are ready to build your service profile. Go to the “Servers” tab and then “Servers->Service Profile Templates->root->Sub-Organizations”. Right-click on the appropriate sub-organization and select “Create Service Profile Template”. Give the template a name, select “Updating Template” and specify the UUID pool created earlier. An updating template will allow you to modify the template at a later time and have those modifications propagate to any service profiles that were deployed using that template:

In the “Networking” section, select the “Expert” radio button and “Add” 6 NICS for ESXi hosts (2 for MGMT, 2 for VMs, 2 for vMotion). After clicking “Add” you will go to the “Create vNIC” dialog box. Immediately select the “Use vNIC Template” checkbox, select vNIC Template A/B and the “VMware” adapter policy. Alternate between the “A” and “B” templates on each vNIC:

In the “Storage” section, specify the local storage policy created earlier and select the “Expert” radio button. Next “Add” two vHBA’s. After you click “Add” and are in the “Create vHBA” dialog box, immediately select the “Use vHBA Template” checkbox and give the vHBA a name. Select the appropriate vHBA Template (e.g. vHBA_A->ESXi_HBA_A, etc) and adapter policy:

Skip the “Zoning” and “vNIC/vHBA Placement” sections by selecting “Next”. Then, in the “Server Boot Order” section, select the appropriate boot policy:

In the “Maintenance Policy” section, select the appropriate maintenance policy:

In the “Server Assignment” section, leave the “Pool Assignment” and power state options at their default. Select the “Firmware Management” dropdown and select the appropriate firmware management policy:

In “Operational Policies”, select the BIOS policy created earlier and then “Finish”:

Deploying a Service Profile

To deploy a service profile from a template, go to the “Servers” tab, then “Servers->Service Profile Templates->root->Sub-Organizations”. Right-click the appropriate service profile template and select “Create service profiles from template”. Select a naming prefix and the amount of service profiles you’d like to create:

To associate a physical server with the newly created profile, right-click the service profile and select “Change service profile association”. In the “Associate Service Profile” dialog box, choose “Select existing server” from the “Server Assignment” drop down menu. Select the appropriate blade and click “OK”:

You can have UCS manager automatically assign a service profile to a physical blade by associating the service profile template to a server pool. However, the way in which UCS automatically assigns a profile to a blade is usually not desired by most people and this way allows you assign profiles to specific slots for better organization.

Configuring Call Home

Go to the “Admin” tab and then “Communication Management->Call Home”. In the right-hand pane, turn the admin state to “On” and fill out all required fields:

In the “Profiles” tab, add callhome@cisco.com to the “Profile CiscoTAC-1”. Add the internal email address to the “Profile full_txt”:

Under “Call Home Policies”, add the following. More policies could be added but this is a good baseline that will alert you to any major equipment problems:

Under “System Inventory”, select “On” next to “Send Periodically” and change to a desirable interval. Select “Save Changes” and then click the “Send System Inventory Now” button and an email should be sent to callhome@cisco.com:

Configure NTP

In the “Admin” tab, select “Time Zone Management”. Click “Add NTP Server” in the right-hand pane to add an NTP server and select “Save Changes” at the bottom:

Backing up the Configuration

Go to the “Admin” tab and then “All”. In the right-hand pane, select “Backup Configuration”. From the “Backup Configuration” dialog box, choose “Create Backup Operation”. Change Admin states to “Enabled” and do a “Full State” and then an “All Configuration” backup. Make sure to check “Preserve Identities:” when doing an “All Configuration” backup and save both backups to the local computer and then to an easily accessible network location:

After backing up your configuration you can start your ESXi/Windows/Linux/etc. host configurations!  Now that all the basic prep-work has been done, deploying multiple servers from this template should be a breeze.  Again, it’s important to note that what is shown above are some common settings typically seen in UCS environments, particularly when setting up ESXi service profile templates.  Certainly, there could be much more tweaking (BIOS, QoS settings, MAC Pool naming conventions, etc.) but these general settings should give you a general idea of what is needed for a basic UCS config.

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  1. #1 by dhanaraj ramesh on January 27, 2014 - 10:30 pm

    thank you sir

  2. #2 by gnikou on February 23, 2014 - 2:55 am

    A brilliant guide. Thank you.

  3. #3 by Rushad Anklesaria on April 25, 2014 - 6:04 am

    Hi there, I am just starting to learn and play with Cisco UCS. This is a brilliant detailed guide. Thank you for taking the time and effort to put this together. Amazing job. Thanks for sharing your knowledge

  4. #4 by Pave; on May 23, 2014 - 9:00 am

    What login\password for connect in “Configuring UCS” – on UCS manager site?
    I setup password “password!1” in console for admin, but if I input admin/password!1 – i don’t enter to site…
    error “Login Error: java.io.ioException: Server returned HTTP response code: 400 for URL https://FI_IP/nuova

    • #5 by speakvirtual on May 27, 2014 - 12:32 pm

      That just sounds like a typical Java error to me. You might try using an older version of Java (I’ve had to do that before) or clearing the Java cache.

  5. #6 by Kolawole on June 20, 2014 - 8:16 am

    can i install Hyper-V instead of Vmware on Cisco ucs to create Vms?

  6. #8 by tomasa on October 22, 2014 - 1:25 pm

    This is wonderful!!!! Thanks a lot mate!

  7. #9 by smokey on November 3, 2014 - 5:56 pm

    Brilliant Guide , thank you very much

  8. #10 by Systems Engineer on March 11, 2015 - 9:25 am

    Reblogged this on Infrastructure Land.

  9. #11 by tradsd on May 12, 2015 - 7:34 pm

    Great walkthrough!! Very helpful thanks for posting.

  10. #12 by Sid Nguyen on August 10, 2015 - 7:58 am

    nice. good work! Sid Nguyen Cisco CSE CCIE 17598

  11. #13 by Kp on February 25, 2016 - 1:24 pm

    Fantastic!!

  1. Cisco UCS 101: Installation and Basic Config | speakvirtual | Infrastructure:land

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