Cisco Recalls Blade Servers

Wednesday, February 8, 2012 @ 04:02 PM gHale

Cisco Systems warns its high-end B440 blades for its “California” Unified Computing System have a defect that could result in one or more board failures, and emit a flash of light that could perhaps give system administrators heart attacks.

Last week, Cisco put out a field notice to customers using its UCS B440 server blades, saying the failure of a MOSFET power transistor on the blade can “cause the component to overheat and emit a short flash which could lead to complete board failure.” The company went on to say that “in extreme circumstances it could affect the other blades in the chassis by disrupting power flow.”

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Cisco warned customers that something was afoot with the MOSFETs back on July 12, 2011, and said at that time there was “no indication of a systemic issue with the MOSFET components, and the observed failure in the field is a random component failure.” Cisco’s system engineers could whip up a firmware fix for the blade to keep the MOSFET from overheating and flashing, obviously causing the system board to fail. This is not an accepted practice in the enterprise server market.

On January 26, the company informed B440 server users the firmware patch did detect MOSFET failures. Since the firmware distribution, another B440 in the field has gone out. And so Cisco made hardware modifications to the B440 system board and is now replacing all of the machines currently used by users.

Cisco said in the field notice that no other UCS B Series blade servers or C Series rack servers suffer from this MOSFET failure issue.

Cisco recommends upgrading to the most recent UCS blade management controller software, which has the patch for monitoring the B440 MOSFETs, and arranging to get replacement blades as soon as possible.

The UCS B440-M1 blade server, launched in April 2010, is a double-wide blade that slides horizontally into the UCS chassis. It is a four-socket server based on Intel’s eight-core “Nehalem-EX” Xeon 7500. The four-socket C460-M1 rack server has a slightly different design and does not suffer from the MOSFET issue. In March 2011, Cisco updated its UCS blade with the B440-M2, which is also a four-socket blade, but one supporting the ten-core “Westmere-EX” Xeon E7 processors from Intel.

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