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Cisco UCS VIC 1400 Series Deep Dive

When it comes to designing your Cisco UCS environment, one of the most important decisions you will make is how to connect your servers to the network.  The good news is Cisco makes this an extremely easy decision with their powerful VIC cards which come in multiple form factors and speeds.  Let’s take a closer look at the Cisco VIC 1400 series, which is designed for the Cisco UCS M5 generation of hardware.

What is a Cisco UCS VIC?

In the world of Cisco UCS, VIC stands for Virtual Interface Card.  The Cisco UCS VIC is a key component of the Cisco UCS Platform, as it connects the Cisco UCS Servers to either the Fabric Interconnect or Cisco Nexus Switches.  While you can select a different type of interface card for a Cisco UCS C-Series Server, the Cisco VIC is the most versatile network card around.

The Cisco VICs give us the ability to carve up our network cards as we see fit – up to 256 virtual adapters.  This gives us the ability to configure networking on our Cisco UCS servers however we see fit, without having to ever change out adapters.

Our Cisco UCS Server’s personality becomes part of its Service Profile, Configured in Cisco UCS Manager.

cisco ucs service profile cisco ucs manager

All of the virtual interfaces in our example Service Profile are software profiles configured with virtual adapters carved from the Cisco VIC physical hardware.

Pretty cool, right?  

If you are not using Cisco UCS Manager, but have an un-managed Cisco UCS environment, Cisco IMC also has the ability to carve up the VIC cards as needed.  This of course only applies to Cisco rack servers.  You can learn more about these different types of Cisco UCS designs in this Introduction to Cisco UCS Architecture.

While there are other 3rd party network cards available for Cisco UCS C-Series rack servers, the VIC is always the most powerful and flexible option.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the Cisco VIC 1400 Series.

The Cisco VIC 1400 Series

The Cisco VIC 1400 series of adapters is designed for the Cisco UCS M5 server family.

  • Cisco VIC 1440 / Cisco VIC 1480
  • Cisco VIC 1455 / Cisco VIC 1457
  • Cisco VIC 1495 / Cisco VIC 1497

There are six different VIC cards in the Cisco UCS 1400 family.  As you can see, I have grouped them in pairs.  Why?  Each pair has the same speed, but is put in a different slot in the Cisco UCS server.

For example, the Cisco UCS 1440 is for Cisco UCS B-Series blade servers, and goes in the mLOM slot.  The Cisco UCS 1480 is also Cisco UCS blade servers, but goes in the mezzanine card slot.  They both operate at the same speed however, and provide the same functionality.

The nice thing about this type of naming convention, is you can immediately tell where a card is located on a Cisco UCS server once you have become familiar with the naming convention.

What is a mLOM?

If you aren’t familiar with Cisco UCS servers, mLOM may be a confusing term.  mLOM stands for Modular LAN on Motherboard.  These are internal slots that are built right into the motherboard.

This is a nice feature, since it provides a slot for connectivity without burning a PCIe slot.  Blade servers and smaller rack servers (C220 and C240) have mLOM slots, since it is so important to save space in these severs.

When we get to larger servers, like the C480 ML, there are not mLOM slots, since there are so many PCIe slots available.

Now, let’s take a closer look at each of the Cisco UCS VIC pairs in the VIC 1400 family.

Cisco VIC 1440 / Cisco VIC 1480

These VICs are blade server VICs.  As we talked about the 1440 VIC is for the mLOM port, and the 1480 VIC for the mezzanine card.  It is important to note that you must have a minimum of one VIC in your blade server, or you will not be able to connect it!  

The mezzanine slot is also capable of accepting cards like GPUs.

Form Factor: Cisco UCS B-Series Blade Server
Speed: 10/40-Gbps
Servers Supported: B200 M5 and B480 M5

Cisco VIC 1455 / Cisco VIC 1457

These are your classic Cisco UCS rack VICs.  When you need to hook up that rack server, there is no better choice, since each of these VICs have four ports.

Form Factor: Cisco UCS C-Series Rack Server
Speed: 10/25-Gbps
Servers Supported for Cisco VIC 1455 (PCIE Card): C220 M5, C240 M5, C480 M5, C480ML, C4200, S3260 M5
Servers Supported for Cisco VIC 1457 (mLOM Card): C220 M5, C240 M5

Cisco VIC 1495 / Cisco VIC 1497

The Cisco UCS 1495 and 1497 VIC cards are the fastest around, with speeds up to 100-Gbps.  An important design point with these cards is that the Cisco UCS 6454 Fabric Interconnect is the only Fabric Interconnect with 100-Gbps ports.

These VICs are dual port VICs.

Form Factor: Cisco UCS C-Series Rack Server
Speed: 40/100-Gbps
Servers Supported for Cisco VIC 1455 (PCIE Card): C220 M5, C240 M5, C480 M5, C480ML
Servers Supported for Cisco VIC 1457 (mLOM Card): C220 M5, C240 M5

You can always find what VICs are supported for your severs in your sever’s Cisco Spec Sheet and Data Sheet.  Remember, the spec sheet is more detailed than the data sheet, and is a must read while designing your Cisco UCS solution.

Cisco VIC Compatibility

Since the Cisco VIC is such a key component of a Cisco UCS Server, it is important to remember to check the Cisco UCS Hardware and Software Compatibility Matrix to ensure the VIC you are choosing is compatible with the software you will be running on your UCS server.

When using the Cisco Compatibility Matrix, make sure to select Products on the right.

Then select Converged Network Adapters from the Product Type Drop Down, and your desired Cisco VIC model from the Product Model drop down.

cisco ucs compatibility matrix for VIC card

You can then select your server specifications and desired operating system, and you will be greeted with the compatibility information you need, including the specific driver versions and any special notes:

cisco ucs vic compatibility with driver information

Be sure to click the numbers listen in the notes field to see everything applicable to your configuration, since there is some very important information listed there:

cisco ucs vic compatibility notes

As you can see, there is a custom VMware ISO for Cisco UCS that includes the drivers needed for installation.  This may not be common knowledge if you are new to Cisco UCS, which is another good reason to always check the Cisco compatibility matrix!

Cisco VIC 1400 Series Recap

The Cisco VIC 1400 series is a powerful converged network card designed especially for the Cisco UCS M5 generation of servers.  There are different models of Cisco UCS VICs with varying speeds.  Each speed of VIC comes in different formats depending on what slot it will be placed in, such as the mLOM slot, a mezzanine slot, or a PCIe slot.  Understanding the Cisco VIC you will be using is a very important part of designing your Cisco UCS solution.