Breaking Through The Cloud

2 Posts authored by: mckelvey

“Can I use my existing Cisco or NetApp components in a FlexPod or do I have to buy new ones?”


This is one of the most common questions I’m asked – by customers, channel partners, and the press.

The answer is, of course, a resounding YES!  It is yet another example of the flexibility of FlexPod.   If you already have NetApp FAS, Cisco UCS, or Cisco Nexus systems validated with FlexPod, you can absolutely use those systems to build a FlexPod.

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Besides, starting with equipment you already have:

  • Protects the investment you’ve already made in IT infrastructure
  • Allows you to build a FlexPod quickly, using what you have
  • Lets you expand on systems you already know and love to test FlexPod’s suitability for your other data center needs
  • Avoids the retraining expense associated with deploying new equipment


And a LOT of IT departments are already using Cisco fabric, NetApp FAS, and Cisco UCS.  In fact, UCS is now the #3 blade server vendor globally (#2 in many countries) and NetApp Data ONTAP is now the #1 storage OS globally.  That means there are many satisfied customers who have one or the other system and are now looking to combine these two industry-leading systems into an integrated data center platform.  That’s what FlexPod does.


But FlexPod provides customers with more than just some world-class components glued together in the data center.   The FlexPod architecture’s pre-validation, extensive documentation, extensive partner network, and technical integration provide a simplified path to cloud.  There’s also strong cooperative support that helps customers quickly resolve issues.  There’s open management with pre-validated management toolsets.   Customers agree there’s a lot of value in the complete platform and in the final integrated deployed solution.  The key point is that you can get that value while using equipment you have already purchased.


Still, I keep getting the question of equipment reuse from customers and partners.  Why?  Because other vendors in the converged infrastructure space mandate the purchase of new products in an inflexible, harder-to-customize unit.  Unlike FlexPod, with those vendors you’ll have to rip-and-replace your existing systems or buy equipment you many not need simply to test it’s suitability for your environment.


For more about the Cisco UCS, Cisco Nexus, and NetApp FAS components of FlexPod, check out the Cisco FlexPod design pages.

On October 10th Cisco and NetApp announced the development of a new data center infrastructure solution, ExpressPod, designed for small and midsize IT departments.


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There has been a lot of buzz since the announcement – much of it centered referring to ExpressPod as FlexPod's little brother.


While not incorrect, the fact is that ExpressPod and FlexPod are quite different.  This is because they meet the IT needs of different environments (or customers).


ExpressPod meets today’s IT needs at a low price point.   That means an IT department can buy a pretested and fully documented architecture made up of best-of-breed components.   It means existing needs for server, network, and storage can be met quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively.  In this way it’s much like FlexPod except for size and cost.  The reality is that smaller IT deployments don’t require large-scale management and configuration tools like those of FlexPod.  And small or midsize businesses often have extremely limited budgets.  So an ExpressPod doesn’t include many of the features needed in a FlexPod deployment – they’re just not necessary until the data center grows.


But ExpressPod also enables growth.   When the business expands, an ExpressPod can expand to support more servers, more storage, and more network capacity.  It’s a simple task to add in additional UCS chassis, another couple of switches (or even 10g switches) or more storage capacity.   If resource needs have really grown, the components in an ExpressPod can be reused to build a full FlexPod, which provides immense scalability, manageability, increased efficiency, and superior business agility.


IT staffing is the final area where ExpressPod shines.  UCS, Nexus, and FAS product lines are consistent across the ExpressPod and FlexPod architectures.   A staff member who can operate the NetApp FAS2240 in an ExpressPod architecture is already capable of running a larger FAS6000 Series in a full-scale FlexPod. Staff that learns ExpressPod won’t need to retrain when the architecture grows.


So I see ExpressPod as a significant enhancement to the joint Cisco and NetApp solution portfolio. It provides a set of FlexPod features to companies who want to start small and grow IT as the business grows. But it doesn’t limit those organizations to staying small or operational processes that must be junked when they get larger.  


I think that last point, the idea of seamless growth without retraining and retooling, is the real value that ExpressPod brings.






PostScript:   What is in a name?


Hmm…  ExpressPod.   That name sounds suspiciously like FlexPod.  What’s with all those “Pod” names? 


P.O.D. or Point of Delivery is a phrase commonly used to describe a “module of network, compute, storage, and application components that work together... The POD is a repeatable pattern, and its components maximize the modularity, scalability, and manageability of data centers.”


You can check out the definition of POD on Wikipedia or see Cisco’s definition of POD in this whitepaper.

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