Cisco taps AMD to power a hyper-dense server for data centers, edge computing

Cisco announces the C-Series C4200 server, a 2RU box comprised of the C4200 chassis and C125 server nodes that boosts processor-core density 128% using AMD EPYC 7000 CPUs.

adding processor to circuit board computer hardware
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Cisco this week broadened its server family with a high-density box aimed at handling compute intensive data center workloads and distributed edge computing environments.

The Cisco C-Series C4200 multinode rack server is a 2RU box comprised of the C4200 chassis and C125 server nodes which Cisco says brings up to 128% higher processor core density and 33% more memory compared to its existing two-socket UCS M5 rack servers.  The C4200 chassis can house up to four server nodes.

“As computing demand shifts from large, traditional data centers to include smaller, more distributed environments at the edge, the ability to mix form factors seamlessly in ‘micro data centers,’ and to manage and automate operations from the cloud becomes vitally important,” wrote Kaustubh Das, Cisco vice president of strategy and product development, storage in its Computing Systems Product Group in a blog about the new server.

“With a fabric-centric architecture, centralized, cloud-based management, and the ability, now, to add dense form factors and new capabilities to UCS, we can better address new technologies as they emerge. All this without creating new islands of infrastructure or requiring forklift upgrades,” Das wrote.

The server is Cisco’s first use of AMD processors -- AMD EPYC 7000 series CPUs. (Related: "AMD’s EPYC server encryption is the latest security system to fall".)

For dense environments, performance per watt is a key metric. EPYC processors offer the most cores with lower power consumption than other offerings, Cisco said about its reasoning behind using the AMD technology.  Cisco’s UCS family typically employs Intel XEON processors.

The key features of the C125 M5 include:

  • Up to two AMD EPYC CPUs (up to 32 cores per socket); up to 64 cores per node, up to 256 cores per C4200 Chassis (four server nodes)
  • 2666-MHz DDR4 memory, 16 DIMM slots (8 per CPU socket) for up to 2 TB of capacity using 128-GB DIMMs
  • 24 disk drives
  • Cisco 12G 9460-8i PCIe SAS RAID Controller with 2GB FBWC
  • Optional dual SD cards or dual M.2 SATA/NVMe drives for boot or increased storage capacity

Analysts say the use of the AMD technology puts Cisco right in the multinode fight along with chief competitors such as Dell and HP.

“Cisco is playing a little catch up here, but the new server lets them significantly branch out of their current blade strategy,” said Ashish Nadkarni, program vice President with IDC. 

The server can be managed through Cisco’s Intersight, a cloud-based system that offers a variety of services including the ability to deploy and monitor the health and inventory status of the devices.

The UCS C4200 and C125 will be available in the third quarter of this year.

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