Tech Corner

Adding Network Connectivity with UCS 2000 Series Fabric Extenders

When operating within Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS) you have the opportunity to bring the integrated fabric into the blade server enclosure through fabric extenders. These extenders provide ethernet connectivity between the blade servers and the fabric interconnection, simplifying diagnostics, cabling, and overall management. Today, we’ll dive into two of Cisco's UCS 2000 Series fabric extenders, put them side-by-side, and walk through what you can achieve in your network. Let’s dive in!

Really quick, if you are new to the UCS space, take a look at a couple of other UCS products we've featured. Whether you're looking at a blade or rack server, check out the UCS C220 M5 product highlight or comparison between UCS B200 M4 and M5 servers!

Shared Features within the 2000 Series

The Cisco UCS 2200 Series and 2304 Series spread the I/O fabric between Fabric Interconnects and a Blade Server Chassis, allowing a lossless and deterministic Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) fabric to connect all blades and chassis together. The 2200 spreads between the UCS 6100 and 6200 Series Fabric Interconnects and the 5100 Blade Server Chassis. The UCS 2304 connects to the same 5100 Series Blade Server Chassis though the Fabric Interconnect is the Cisco UCS 6300.

Since the fabric extender is similar to a distributed line card, it does not perform any switching and is managed as an extension of the fabric interconnects. This approach removes switching from the chassis, reducing overall infrastructure complexity and allowing Cisco UCS to scale to many chassis without multiplying the number of switches needed, reducing TCO and allowing all chassis to be managed as a single, highly available management domain.

As mentioned above, both series (2200 & 2304) fit into the back of the UCS 5100 Series Chassis with each chassis supporting up to two fabric extenders, enabling improved capacity and redundancy. Each Fabric Extender controls the chassis environment (power supply, fans, and blades) in concurrence with the fabric interconnect. Therefore, separate chassis management modules are not needed.


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Cisco UCS 2200

As a second-generation I/O module (IOM), the UCS 2200 shares the same form factor as the first-generation Cisco UCS 2100 Series Fabric Extenders IOM and is backward-compatible with the shipping Cisco UCS 5108 Blade Server Chassis. Now, the UCS 2304 is a third-generation IOM that shares the same backward compatibility with the shipping Cisco UCS 5108 Blade Server Chassis.

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Cisco UCS 2208XP

The Cisco UCS 2208XP Fabric Extender has eight 10 Gigabit Ethernet, FCoE-capable, Enhanced Small Form-Factor Pluggable (SFP+) ports that join the blade chassis to the fabric interconnect. Each Cisco UCS 2208XP has thirty-two 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports connected through the midplane to each half-width slot in the chassis. Typically configured in pairs for redundancy, two fabric extenders provide up to 160 Gbps of I/O to the chassis.

Cisco UC 2204XP

The Cisco UCS 2204XP Fabric Extender has four 10 Gigabit Ethernet, FCoE-capable, SFP+ ports that connect the blade chassis to the fabric interconnect. Each Cisco UCS 2204XP has sixteen 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports connected through the midplane to each half-width slot in the chassis, similar to that of the 2208XP. The 2204XP is configured for redundancy as well with two fabric extenders provide up to 80 Gbps of I/O to the chassis.

Cisco UCS 2304

The Cisco UCS 2304 Fabric Extender has four 40 Gigabit Ethernet, FCoE-capable, Quad Small Form-Factor Pluggable (QSFP+) ports that helps join the blade chassis to the fabric interconnect. Each Cisco UCS 2304 can provide one 40 Gigabit Ethernet ports connected through the midplane to each half-width slot in the chassis, giving it a total eight 40G interfaces to the compute. Typically configured in pairs for redundancy, two fabric extenders provide up to 320 Gbps of I/O to the chassis.

cisco ucs management

Cisco SingleConnect Technology

Cisco® SingleConnect Technology provides an easy, intelligent, and efficient way to connect and manage computing in the data center. SingleConnect unifies LAN, SAN, and systems management into one simplified link for rack servers, blade servers, and virtual machines.

SingleConnect is an end-to-end I/O architecture. It incorporates Cisco UCS virtual interface cards (VICs), Cisco UCS fabric interconnects, and Cisco Fabric Extender Technology (FEX Technology) to connect every server on a single network fabric and on a single network layer. SingleConnect innovations dramatically simplify IT operations and reduce data center costs and are exclusive to Cisco UCS.

SingleConnect provides one connection for:

  • Rack servers and blade servers
  • LAN, SAN, and systems management
  • Physical servers and virtual machines
Feature Benefit UCS 2200 UCS 2304
Management by UCS Manager Stateless Chassis supporting a single, highly available management domain for all system chassis (lower administrative tasks) Yes Yes
Autoconfiguration Simplifies operation by automatically synchronizing firmware levels between the fabric extenders and interconnects Yes Yes
Unified Fabric Decreases the number of Network Interface Cards, Host Bus Adapter, switches, and cables needed to again reduce TCO Yes Yes
Automatic Failover Increases availability with an active-active data plan Yes Yes
Scalable Bandwidth Overall system capacity is optimized to match actual workload demands, dropping TCO Yes Yes
Environmental Monitoring Removes the need for chassis management modules Yes Yes
Lossless Fabric Provides a dependable, strong foundation for unifying LAN and SAN traffic on a single transport. Yes Yes
Priority Flow Control (PFC) Streamlines management of multiple traffic flows over a single network link. Supports different classes of service, allowing both lossless and classic Ethernet on the same fabric. Yes Yes
System-wide Bandwidth Management Conduct consistent and coherent QoS management Yes Yes
VM-FEX Enable a consistent operating model between virtual and physical environments while maintaining the same level of visibility. Enhance diagnostics and troubleshooting capabilities. Yes Yes
Ports Increases flexibility with a range of interconnect solutions consumes less power per port and enables a cost-effective connection on fabric extenders SFP+ QSFP+
Fabric PortChannel Bringing flexibility to bundle fabric ports in a PortChannel Yes Yes


The 2200 and 2304 both give you the flexibility to expand your network as needed providing similar functionality, though when it comes to performance you see the primary difference. The hardware forwarding of the 2200 caps at 640 Gbps while the 2304 pushes itself up to 960 Gbps. 

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