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Deepdive in Cisco UCS Uplinks & Port Channels

So, you’ve got everything set up. You’ve racked the blade chassis(s) and fabric interconnect (FI) switches, ran the FI peer connections, and performed the UCS cluster setup giving the FI’s IPs to create the HA cluster configuration. With your UCS stack now connected, you are ready to power the UCS chassis up, define policies, and attach things to your external network. There are multiple UCS policies that will need to be defined. We must also configure all chassis IOM ports for blade connectivity — a.k.a. the chassis discovery process.

In this post, we are going to review where to navigate and how to define the uplink and port channel configurations. Always remember that your uplink and port channel configurations need to also match the upstream switch definitions. You must work with the network group to plan and design the port layouts to ensure that you select the correct port ranges and define the link parameters as most configurations will be unique. Having an approved cable matrix is key.

I will also work through the UCSM configuration portion, and we will assume that ports 1-4 will be our network (uplink) ports.

Connecting to UCSM

To get started, we need to connect to the UCS Manager (UCSM) by opening a web browser and connecting to the cluster IP address you defined during the FI setup. Click the launch UCS Manager button to login. The credentials were defined during the UCSM cluster setup.

After you successfully login you will notice several UCS navigational options. When configuring anything within UCS, it’s a good practice to get used to using the quick filters to jump to/through the areas you are looking to configure faster. As shown below, select the equipment section and filter by the FIs. The default view will display the general tab and you will get a great visual of all the ports available in the FIs. Depending on the switch, you may notice multiple switch port modules so be sure to identify the correct ports in advance. Notice that none of the ports will be configured initially and they all will be in an unconfigured and administratively down state. This should look the same on both FIs.

Notice how the ports below are not illuminated.

Configuring Port Uplinks

As mentioned previously, when applying the quick filters you will jump quickly to the FI components and modules. Note that there are several ways to navigate within the UCSM platform. In this post, I will select the physical ports tab and select the appropriate ports to configure as uplinks (upstream network traffic). As shown in the previous FI image, you will also see that the ports are unconfigured and administratively down in the port list.

Select ports 1-4 (as mentioned) to be your uplinks — either individually or you can select multiple using the CTRL key. Once selected, right mouse click and you will be prompted to select your configuration type — select configure as uplink port. This will then automatically enable those ports bringing the UP and assigning them as network ports. Be sure to perform these steps on both FIs.

Please note that the other end of the connections, your upstream switch ports, should be configured as ‘trunk’ ports when using multiple uplink ports.

We have now defined the uplink port configuration. Next, we will create the port channels.

The two images below show the uplink port status.

Configuring the Port Channels

The simplest way to describe a port channel is a grouping of physical ports bonded to create one logical link. Known as link aggregation, these logical links provide high availability, fault-tolerance and faster speeds (bandwidth). With the port uplinks configured we can begin defining the port channels. To start, navigate to the LAN section of UCSM. Use the quick filter and select LAN Cloud to display the cluster fabrics. From the general tab, you’ll see the quick link to create your port channel.

There are multiple navigation options. Only one is shown below.

Regardless of the method, the port channel wizard will activate and allow you to define your ports. Both the port channel ID and the port channel name should be unique. It’s also a good idea to label the port channel using something descriptive in case the environment scales or multiple port channels are required. Since we previously defined ports 1-4 as the uplink ports, they will automatically populate as available ports to apply to the port channel. Select the four and move them to the selected window as shown below which will assign them to the group.

Note: UCS port channels are limited to 8 FI port connections and must be the same port type.

After you click finish, verify the created port channel as shown below and remember to repeat these steps on the other fabric switch.
In Conclusion

That’s all there is to initially define the UCS uplinks and port channels. Having the appropriate uplink ports and defining the port channel speeds should also match the upstream network switches. It is important to plan and design well and work with the network teams to define a good cable matrix. Remember that this process must get done on both fabric switches

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