Senior Infrastructure Analyst at a legal firm with 201-500 employees
Real User
Provides unified support for the entire stack, allows us to confidently run everything, and brings efficiency
Pros and Cons
  • "Integration is most valuable. This is a reference architecture. So, we don't have to design something from scratch and figure out how it is going to work."
  • "We would like one-click upgrades."

What is our primary use case?

We have FlexPod Mini for the primary data center.

How has it helped my organization?

FlexPod's validated designs for major enterprise apps in our company are important because there is stability. There are zero downtimes and high availability. There is good support for the systems that you can run on the platform. FlexPod is a validated architecture, and basically, the spectrum of what's supported is pretty wide. So, you can run pretty much everything without thinking twice about it.

It provides unified support for the entire stack. For example, if you have an upgrade or a new version on NetApp, there is a compatible version for the Nexus switch, and there is a compatible version of VMware and/or Cisco UCS firmware. Instead of upgrading piece by piece or guessing what is going to work with what and whether there are any bugs, for an upgrade, you can follow the chain and what has actually been validated. It reduces a lot of overhead for the team.

It has made our staff more efficient, enabling them to spend time on tasks that drive our business forward. Instead of designing or trying to follow the lifecycle of each piece of equipment, by working with a unified stack, we do it once, instead of doing it five times for five different pieces.

It has definitely improved application performance in our company, but I don't have a baseline.

What is most valuable?

Integration is most valuable. This is a reference architecture. So, we don't have to design something from scratch and figure out how it is going to work. 

What needs improvement?

We would like one-click upgrades.

NetApp released a new version with a new interface. For somebody who has been used to the old interface, it's a change. It is taking time to adjust to the new interface, and it would be nice to have some of the old features in it.

Buyer's Guide
FlexPod XCS
April 2024
Learn what your peers think about FlexPod XCS. Get advice and tips from experienced pros sharing their opinions. Updated: April 2024.
768,066 professionals have used our research since 2012.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We are very positive about it. It has been a great experience. We've actually refreshed the hardware which indicates that it is working and is stable. We are satisfied with it, and we're just continuing with this.

How are customer service and support?

Our experience is positive. We've refreshed it. We've purchased additional NetApp, which speaks of the positive experience. I would rate it a nine out of 10.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

This was our first experience with it. Before this, we'd buy hardware, storage products, and networking products, and we tried to integrate them. Whatever surprises we got, we dealt with them. With a validated architecture, there's a little bit more confidence that whatever you're putting in place has been validated, and then you got two major names, NetApp and Cisco, behind you.

How was the initial setup?

In technology, I'm afraid there's really not much that's straightforward.

What about the implementation team?

We have some skills to do some of the tasks, but for implementations, we usually go for integrators. The experience with the integrator was great, and the time was basically within an acceptable timeline. The project timeline did not extend, and from that perspective, the implementation was straightforward. You can have some expectations for start and finish.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We worked with our integrators to look at the available solutions and follow the market trend based on our requirements, and this one checked most of the boxes. At the time, instead of NetApp, there was HP storage or HP servers with HP storage. Based on the previous experience and experience with the staff, integrator's feedback, and market popularity, the choice was Cisco/NetApp.

What other advice do I have?

If anyone is just going from a conventional SAN to VMware Hypervisor, it is the most reliable option moving forward. Following technology trends, if you're moving from a conventional server to SAN and you would like to integrate from encryption to SAN-to-SAN replication to any features—ranging from security, ransomware protection, and DR—this solution covers it.

It simplifies infrastructure from edge to core, but I don't know if it also simplifies from core to cloud. 

We are not yet using FlexPod's storage tiering to a public cloud. We also haven't fully adopted most of the innovations, such as all-flash CI, private and hybrid cloud deployment, secure-multi-tenancy, end-to-end NVMe, cloud storage tiering, but we are getting there in terms of whatever trends are there in the market within cloud integration, flash, and NVMe. It is improving our infrastructure, and we will be there. We are currently in the process of adopting some of these.

It has only theoretically decreased our company's data center costs in terms of floor space, power, or cooling. That's because when we went into FlexPod in a data center, we were migrating from one data center to another. At the moment, they still coexist. We are still in transition. So, in terms of cooling and power, we are still cooling and consuming power in both locations. Until we completely go off one of the data centers and move some of the workloads to the cloud, practically, there won't be any reduction in the data center costs. 

I would rate it a nine out of 10.

Disclosure: PeerSpot contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
PeerSpot user
Data Center Engineer at a financial services firm with 51-200 employees
Real User
A reliable, versatile solution that offers great value and proven performance
Pros and Cons
  • "A valuable feature of the FlexPod solution is that it is all one architecture and I can call one number and get support for Cisco and NetApp without having to jump through open TAC (Technical Assistance Center) cases and do multiple things to get issues addressed."
  • "The upgrade process needs to be improved and it would be nice to manage everything from a single pane of glass."

What is our primary use case?

We use this solution for backing up and storing banking and financial data. It is especially important for protecting data mirroring between multiple data centers using a hybrid cloud type approach. We have our own cases for what we use but we do like the input we get from the manufacturers and their suggestions on how we should deploy things.

How has it helped my organization?

Before we had FlexPod, we had just stacks and stacks of servers. You know, every time you wanted to build a server you had to go buy a whole pizza box (case for computers or network switches), put it in a rack, plug it up. We had EMC, we had a bunch of different storage providers, the way it connected was makeshift, a couple of late servers here and there. So to be able to put everything in one rack, one solution with the storage, was a big step up. Plus, every time we need to expand the storage for the old system, it wasn't easy. Cisco blades simplify everything from a compute standpoint and you can easily upgrade the blades. All you got to do is add a new chassis, change out your blades, and the blades are done. If a blade dies, you pull it out, you get a brand new one or you change the motherboard and you just slide it back in depending on the policy that you create for the surface profiles and you are good to go.

What is most valuable?

A valuable feature of the FlexPod solution is that it is all one architecture and I can call one number and get support for Cisco and NetApp without having to jump through open TAC (Technical Assistance Center) cases and do multiple things to get issues addressed. When integrating with VMware, I know all the parts that came with it and all the parts and when I need to update something in it, I can just get the complete package, do all the firmware stuff and the fabric interconnects.

What needs improvement?

The real improvement I could see on the FlexPod side is it falls on the NetApp components. The upgrades that they had to go through from 7-Mode to CDOT (Clustered Data OnTap) did not make for a good transition. I'm pretty sure they learned the lesson from that because you basically had to stand up a side-by-side system, copy your data over, upgrade your stuff and move your data back. No one wants to do that and it is a nightmare.

It would also be nice if you could manage everything through a single pane of glass — but that won't happen. With a single pane, we could look at everything at once in the UCS (Cisco's Unified Computing System) components as well as VMware and the NetApp components. It would be good to be able to do that without having to navigate into four different web pages.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The solution has decreased downtime incidents by close to 100%. With the resiliency built into the system, one component fails and the others still work. I mean, you just can't get any better than that. So the stability of the solution is really good.

We have lost a blaze server here and there. But we run about 30 servers on each side, so, losing one isn't that big a deal. Besides that, we don't have that many issues with it. It just works. This is our third iteration. Obviously we bought it the first time and we liked it enough that we bought it again.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability does have some issues being that NetApp is all part of the FlexPod. It could limit how much you can scale. Depending on what head system you bought that came with NetApp it will make a difference for you to be able to scale. I don't remember off hand what the step-by-step is to upgrade. But I know sometimes that it can turn into an issue. If you didn't gage right and you bought the wrong piece and you went too small on your storage and you need to expand, you might have to change stuff out.

How are customer service and technical support?

The technical support is good. We've never had an issue with them. We paid for a service and we have a dedicated support person. We call him, he opens the case, then the engineers call us back. We don't wait on hold or do any of that. So it works really well for us. I like that. The solution's support for the entire staff has been very important. That I can get the help that I need and help find solutions to fix issues that happen between the stacks is really valuable.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Before we started using FlexPod we just had a regular old hodgepodge of different IT systems. A couple of Dell servers, a couple of HPs, a couple of IBM blades, and that kind of network doesn't really function well as a solution once your organization starts to get to a certain size. You need to commit to a solution that you will be able to grow with for the next five or six years.

The fact that the product integrates with all major public cloud services did not influence our decision to go with FlexPod, although I think that maybe the case with some people.

In the end, we went with FlexPod because of everything that they offered. The complete scalability of the system, the recovery capabilities of it, and the whole integration opportunity. The NetApp part was a big deal and a component we wanted because the NetApp storage solution could do everything that we wanted it to do. We didn't have to buy 60 licenses just to make it do what it was supposed to do right out the box. That was a big thing.

How was the initial setup?

I was involved in the initial setup and it was a bit complex. It was complex at first because I mean it was a new system and stuff and there were some parts that we had not managed before that we had to learn. Using the UCL software was new to us. We can easily manipulate the fabric interconnects. You don't have to get the networking people every time you need to do something. They just have to touch the 9k or the 5k or whatever you running.

What about the implementation team?

We integrated through Sigma Solutions as a reseller and consultant. They were excellent. We enjoy working with them. They worked with us on the first installation and then again when we redeployed our data centers and helped us get the FlexPod solution. They actually took us and brought us to California and we actually went to the EMC shop and we went to the NetApp shop there in California. We toured the main offices and looked at the solutions there and where we ultimately went for the next NetApp FlexPod instead of the EMC FlexPod version.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Our shortlist included a Dell EMC.

What other advice do I have?

We have found that the solution simplifies infrastructure from edge to core to cloud — although we have not really implemented the cloud yet.

The solution has made our staff more efficient and enables them to spend more time driving the business forward. It's primarily what we do. We don't really have other tasks. But as far as not having to worry about daily maintenance on the network very much — it just works. I'm not messing with it every day and trying to get something to work right. It is set up, it is configured, We have got our policies in place and you pretty much roll. We can focus on doing other things like analyzing the data, mixture throughput, things like that when you don't have to worry about the hardware tripping you up.

I think the integration improved application performance in our organization. The back end on the FlexPod with the 40 gig connections on the NetApp makes the DB admins life a whole lot easier with a lot less latency for them. And not only that, with the components, we can monitor it and see where they are being affected and then we can fix those issues for them without a lot of back-and-forths.

I'm sure the solution has saved the organization money. Because it creates a smaller footprint you do not need as many servers. I don't know offhand how much power and storage and residual costs we saved. But the solution has decreased organization data center costs.

The solutions have affected our operations with the opportunity to use things like All-flash, CI, Private and HyperCloud. I'd say that one of the biggest improvements was All-flash. Before we were still using mechanical drives and actually we did on the first generation of FlexPod. We are on our third generation. They did have mechanical drives in the first iteration. So for us to move to all-flash, which we have now, was a really good step up.

On a scale of one to ten where ten is the best, I would rank the product against the competition as a ten.

My advice to anyone considering this solution is that they really start out looking at their needs depending on the size of the company. The product is kind of expensive even from an entry-level standpoint. I know they have the edge systems for branches, but if you have a small to medium-size business you probably have to have a lot of data to make it worthwhile. I would say FlexPod would be the way to go if you are a larger business or one with large data volume.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Private Cloud

If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?

Other
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
PeerSpot user
Buyer's Guide
FlexPod XCS
April 2024
Learn what your peers think about FlexPod XCS. Get advice and tips from experienced pros sharing their opinions. Updated: April 2024.
768,066 professionals have used our research since 2012.
Senior Storage Engineer at U.S. Bancorp
Real User
Pod flexibility along with the containerization of each pod is very nice and it is easy to expand
Pros and Cons
  • "The ease of expansion is the most valuable feature."
  • "It would be helpful if they sold a pre-boxed option so that you can buy a rack and everything's already there, everything's connected."

What is our primary use case?

Our primary use case for this solution is for custom applications. 

How has it helped my organization?

FlexPod has improved my organization in the way that it has given us much greater flexibility for getting our apps rolled out.

It simplified infrastructure from edge to core to cloud. We aren't doing anything to the cloud but within the infrastructure, it's much simpler because anytime we roll out dedicated applications, we are essentially deploying dedicated FlexPods for each application.

The solution's IT support has been key for it because we're able to size appropriately depending on the application and the flexibility to grow out each FlexPod depending on the application requirements.

It has also enabled our staff to be more efficient. Previous to this, the infrastructure was all outsourced and so when we were bringing everything insourcing, it enabled us to essentially start fresh. We were moving off of the legacy block storage from a specific vendor and this allowed much easier siloing of our applications so that we didn't have resource contention between the applications.

The application performance has also been improved. I don't have exact metrics but we're moving from legacy hardware to essentially new hardware, so there's a big jump in the actual overall hardware quality that we've been doing.

Unplanned downtime incidents have decreased. We haven't had any unplanned outages that I'm aware of since we went to the FlexPod model.

What is most valuable?

The ease of expansion is the most valuable feature. 

The solution's validated designs for major enterprise apps are very important.

What needs improvement?

In terms of what needs improvement, nothing jumps out at me. It is meeting our requirements and so I'm pretty happy with the way it is right now.

It would be helpful if they sold a pre-boxed option so that you can buy a rack and everything's already there, everything's connected.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

FlexPod seems very stable so far. We haven't had any unplanned outages so far.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I am very impressed with scalability because, given the applications that we're running on it, it's much easier to ensure that the resources are dedicated for each application and we can scale each application's own pod as we need to.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We went from an outsourcing model to an insourcing model. It was a good time to make a conversion from legacy, just standard blocks, a lot of physical servers and convert over to a virtual environment and have everything integrated into a nice little box.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was very straightforward. We've got all our reference documentation and we had everything planned out. Our VAR did do a good job of saying, here are the components that we're using and here's how everything goes together.

What about the implementation team?

We used a VAR for some of it and then just for the purchasing. After the first couple of rollouts, we just use them for the purchasing piece and we started doing all our own integration. 

They were a bit slow. They were taking two to three weeks to roll out a pod and we were doing it in a couple of days.

What was our ROI?

We have not seen ROI yet. 

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

FlexPod was pretty much the way they wanted to go from the start.

What other advice do I have?

I would rate it a solid eight out of ten. It's not perfect. Everything's already plugged in when you get it out of the box. Obviously there is a bit more configuration involved than a VCE where everything comes in and you're buying a box, essentially. But that's a pretty minor knock on it.

It is a really solid solution. The pod flexibility along with the containerization of each pod is very nice.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
PeerSpot user
Sr Storage Engineer at a wholesaler/distributor with 10,001+ employees
Real User
Enables our staff to be more efficient and it simplifies our infrastructure from edge to core
Pros and Cons
  • "Not a perfect ten because it could use better integration on the network side between UCS and the switching layerKnowing that everything works, having a single place to be able to find out compatibility and things like that are the biggest benefits of this solution. The fact that LACP is not supported on UCS blades isn't so great. It would be nice if it was."
  • "Not a perfect ten because it could use better integration on the network side between UCS and the switching layer. The fact that LACP is not supported on UCS blades isn't so great. It would be nice if it was."

What is our primary use case?

We use it for everything except for ERP. We use it for VMware, VDI, SQL, and a mix of Windows and Linux.

How has it helped my organization?

FlexPod has enabled our staff to be more efficient. They spend less time managing multiple tickets with multiple vendors. If we open a ticket with Cisco and the issue needs to have NetApp pulled in or VMware pulled in, our contact is still Cisco and they still have ownership of the case, as opposed to, without FlexPod, the process would be opening a ticket with Cisco. Cisco would need to check something on the NetApp side. Then we would have to engage NetApp, open a NetApp case, coordinate some time to get everybody together on a WebEx, and then they could say that it's a Windows problem. Then we would have to open a ticket with Microsoft and do the whole thing again. The support is nice to have.

It has decreased the unplanned downtime incidents by around 10%.

What is most valuable?

Knowing that everything works, having a single place to be able to find out compatibility and things like that are the biggest benefits of this solution.

FlexPod's validated designs for major enterprise apps are very important in our company. For example, running our SQL clusters, being able to have compatibility information, and validated design information, for everything from SQL versions, OS versions, switching, firmware versions, and UCS and models of whatever hardware we're using, having all of that pre-validated and available is nice.

We do not use their storage into public cloud.

We have found that it simplifies our infrastructure from edge to core. It's just nice to have that single source of pre-validated designs and reference architectures.

The history of innovations has not affected our operations. We've been pretty stable. We haven't really done a whole lot as far as, being on the bleeding edge of anything.

Unified support for the entire stack is pretty important. It's nice to have. It makes it a lot easier from our perspective, to be able to make or have a single point of contact, for issues that are kind of gray as far as where the problem lies.

What needs improvement?

It hasn't saved us CapEx.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It's been stable. 

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It's scaled easily to what we need it for. 

How are customer service and technical support?

Support has been good. There were a few hiccups early on but it's pretty well streamlined now.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was straightforward. It would have been set up the same way if it wasn't called FlexPod. We're using Cisco Nexus, which is Cisco UCS, NetApp storage, and VMware are all things we would have done anyway.

What about the implementation team?

We did the setup ourselves. It was piece by piece and it was built by us and then validated.

What other advice do I have?

If you're a Cisco, NetApp or VMware shop then go for it.

I would rate FlexPod an eight out of ten. Not a perfect ten because it could use better integration on the network side between UCS and the switching layer. The fact that LACP is not supported on UCS blades isn't so great. It would be nice if it was.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
PeerSpot user
Infrastructure Engineer at Suntrust Bank
Real User
Flexible and innovative when it comes to compute storage and networking
Pros and Cons
  • "The solution can be innovative when it comes to compute storage and networking. FlexPod is very flexible and innovative. We can design it as we like."
  • "I would like to see more cloud-centric modules that are specific to applications and more software-based solutions. That's all that is missing."

What is our primary use case?

The primary use case for FlexPod is for our websites, intranet, internet, internet facing sites, compute storage, and processing power. We have a NetApp storage device, we have FlexPod, and we have flash storage which is part of the app. It's mostly for internal storage and compute needs.

How has it helped my organization?

We are more than likely going to be moving to the cloud. We'll probably do some sort of hybrid cloud solution. We're looking at AWS. Cisco has FlexPods that work with AWS. More than likely we'll do something like that at the end of the year. We'll probably integrate with AWS or whatever cloud provider we go with. We have thought about it. They have an excellent platform idea.

FlexPod is perfectly capable of supporting what we have. Our needs are mostly clients that are based off an internet website. All the computer requirements that we have are more than sufficient. For now, this is all the solution we need.

The solution can be innovative when it comes to compute storage and networking. FlexPod is very flexible and innovative. We can design it as we like. We can do just a single tenant, multi-tenant, whatever we need. It's very helpful. 

FlexPod is exactly what we're looking for as far as performance is concerned. For our use cases, this is more than ample. It has all the flexibility and the performance capabilities that we're looking for right now. FlexPod helps us meet the needs of diverse workloads.  

We have seen a major improvement in application performance by around 30%, even though we're running in a hypervisor and we don't have a dedicated service for it.

The solution reduced the time we required to deploy an application. It's almost instantaneous. It's not as fast as the cloud, but it's close enough. It's very good. It has been reduced by at least 50%. 

FlexPod reduced our data center costs by around 20%.

For staff productivity, FlexPod helped with some of the manual tasks that we had to monitor within the infrastructure. We don't have to do it now because FlexPod is very reliable. Even replacing basic disks is automated. FlexPod seems to be very quick and reliable. It's been running well.

FlexPod also simplifies our support experience. It's mostly internal in our own company. We know exactly what we're looking for. We know what to monitor. We have alerts set up for that. FlexPod helps.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature is that it's flexible and best of breed. We can add and subtract as we want. It takes care of all our needs. FlexPod is exactly what we're looking for. 

We don't have any plans for AI right now, but I'm sure when we do, it'll probably be more than helpful.

We have found it to be resilient because of the flexibility and redundancy built into it. 

What needs improvement?

I would like to see more cloud-centric modules that are specific to applications and more software-based solutions. That's all that is missing.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Our impressions are very good. It's the best upgrade hardware. We have had no issues so far. 

We had a couple of outages with FlexPod, but they were mostly software based. They weren't hardware based. So far, so good.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

In terms of scalability, that's exactly what we have with FlexPod. We're trying to expand into the cloud. Anytime we need to add some servers or take some down, it's very scalable. FlexPod is very fast.

How are customer service and technical support?

We have a support contract with Cisco. It is very quick. We are on the phone with them immediately. Out of 10, I would give them an eight.

What about the implementation team?

We had a reseller for the setup. I'm fairly new at the company. I wasn't there for the setup. From what I have heard, the experience was very good. They have dedicated account managers that work with us directly. It was a good experience.

What other advice do I have?

We have a single tenant application. The compute engine power and the cloud resources that we need for the application are more than sufficient with FlexPod. We don't have any issues with performance using the application. For now, it's exactly what we are looking for. Performance is one of the reasons that we went with FlexPod. 

From CSA, we have some product requirements. FlexPod has been more than enough for us to secure our sites and pass the audits. It's been very helpful.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate this product a 10. There are some good products out there. FlexPod is in the top five for sure.

Go with the best of breed product, it will make your life easier. I would highly recommend FlexPod.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
PeerSpot user
Architect at a energy/utilities company with 10,001+ employees
Real User
Runs all of our mission-critical applications, and the cost benefits are obvious
Pros and Cons
  • "The Validated Designs are very good because they act as a reference to see whether we have done things properly."
  • "It would be very helpful if the upgrades for Cisco, VMware, and NetApp could be bundled together and performed at the same time."

What is our primary use case?

We use the FlexPod solution for all of our VMware workloads.

How has it helped my organization?

Prior to using this solution, we had a legacy VMware environment and there were a lot of problems. Comparing to that time, we can really see the cost benefits of using FlexPod.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature is that it integrates with NetApp, as well as the Cisco B200 M4 and M5 Blades. It is a fully integrated system.

The Validated Designs are very good because they act as a reference to see whether we have done things properly.

What needs improvement?

It would be very helpful if the upgrades for Cisco, VMware, and NetApp could be bundled together and performed at the same time. Currently, if I need to upgrade NetApp or VMware then I have to request a service outage. If all three were bundled together then it would be very easy.

Every time Cisco introduces a new product like the M3, M4, or M5 blades, I have to build a new cluster because the CPU chipset is different. It cannot be accommodated within the existing cluster, necessitating having to build a new one, which causes me to invest more money.

For how long have I used the solution?

Almost four years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability of this solution is very good.

The two partners, Cisco and NetApp, have both been in the market for a long time. Stability-wise we don't have any issues, but if we do then we will call technical support.

It is very resilient. The resiliency is obvious.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

There are no issues in terms of scalability with this solution. If I want to grow the compute resources or Azure separately then I can do it. Or, if I want to add a fabric internet switch then I will just buy it.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support is very good. I would rate it ten out of ten.

How was the initial setup?

The setup of FlexPod is straightforward because all of the components are there.

What about the implementation team?

We use a qualified reseller for all our Cisco procurements.

What was our ROI?

I can say that we are getting a good return on investment at this point.

We have saved approximately twenty to thirty percent by using this solution.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

We pay approximately $1,400 USD in total for between five-thousand and ten-thousand ports. 

Apart from FlexPod fees, I have the VMware annual license cost.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated solutions from HP, Cisco, and IBM before choosing this solution.

What other advice do I have?

This solution runs all of our mission-critical applications, and the cost benefits to using this solution are very good. It integrates well with other products, and in fact, the biggest lesson that I have learned from this solution is that integration is a good thing. Cisco and NetApp have done a good job.

I have been hearing that NetApp will be taken over by Cisco. If this happens, and NetApp is integrated with all of the Cisco solutions, then it would be very good. Currently one of the weak points with Cisco is that they are not a storage company. It was similar in the case of Dell, who took over EMC.

Overall, this is definitely a good product.

I would rate this solution a nine out of ten.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
PeerSpot user
Works at a tech services company with 5,001-10,000 employees
Consultant
The agility reduces the number of hours that it takes to construct a physical or virtual data center
Pros and Cons
  • "It reduces the time required to dynamically provide applications to our end users and developers."
  • "It takes a very sophisticated group of people to run and maintain NetApp and Cisco products."

What is our primary use case?

The purpose of FlexPod is for a converged infrastructure that provides compute or networking storage and helps launch applications more easily and dynamically.

How has it helped my organization?

At the end of the day, AI is not AI without the application that we write into it. With collaboration between Microsoft — utilizing it to build in a manner that is compatible to the FlexPod architecture — we're able to provide specific intelligence that supports our objectives — whatever it is at a given time. Whether it's data aggregation, learning, pouring out the analytics, the intelligence helps specific applications respond to requirements within a business structure. That's what FlexPod enables us to do. That agility reduces the number of hours that it takes to construct a data center, whether it is physical or virtual, by enabling applications to support AI objectives. It just needs to be built correctly.

We have experienced about 28 to 30% improvement in application performance and in our industry that's actually a very significant improvement.

The purpose of using FlexPod, for us, is to simplify and streamline application deployment. 
Compared to utilizing a rack and stack model and using a virtualization technology like VMware, the time savings is about 40% in getting the application into production.

What is most valuable?

Certification from both manufacturers states that this is a tried and true converged product. That's what we are most happy about. One of the biggest things that my engineers have the pains with is to vet out core networking, vet out stretch routing, vet out applications and then vet out the compute, the front end and the stores, then layer it. After all that deal with the application and quality assure it before we put into production. FlexPod cut out all that complexity and helped get us to the point where it in a data center, launch our application, build the application, test it, QA, and then put in production. So it does reduce the time with regards to how we dynamically provision and provide applications to our end users and developers. 

What needs improvement?

If we look at data center solutions, any of those solutions are only as good as the people that put it together. If there's a way for us to take a hyperconverged technology or converged technology — like FlexPod — and use it with artificial intelligence, that allows the engineer who is building it to infuse the deployment with intelligence. Turning it on, the necessary steps — done correctly — eliminate human error. If something is in error or not within compliance to confines of what that particular architecture should be like, intelligence lets that engineer know that an object is out of policy. For example, if you implement SAP and Oracle, the Oracle database goes through this way; if you partition it out to this number of lines or a particular number of virtual machines, the recommendation may be different to achieve the maximum efficiency.

If the solution does that, it helps enable and accelerate deployment. Every organization out there has its own challenges. Whether you're an automobile manufacturer, or a cloud solution provider, or a managed service provider, or even application software provider working for social networking where the only thing they need to do is support people, all that is important is when they login to that particular application. They need to have that effort fit the user experience. The collaboration between Cisco and NetApp can learn to provide that.

Millennials today are very intelligent people when it comes to social media, but they're not hands-on with applications or as CLI (command-line interface) as some of the older engineers. The millennial comes in and they look at something and they get it. Okay, as long as that's valid, it is okay. The smarter thing is that something is put into FlexPod to be sure potential errors are covered. 

The client will tell you what they want to do. Well, whatever that is — they can be selling hamburgers, make pizzas, or fly an airplane. If we make a machine dynamic, it allows professionals to go to market and set their strategy a lot better.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

As far as stability, the product is a tank. It doesn't break. It's very reliable. It is also resilient in terms of workloads, but it has to involve the necessary security staff to oversee it and the proper security application and layers to support it. But structurally and architecturally, the solution itself, from a workload or a workforce perspective, is very resilient.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It does have its limitation if the architecture is weak and constructed incorrectly. If you do it right, it scales infinitely.

When you build it, and you build it to scale, you'll be able to serve out any application dynamically to end users. It could be an organization of 3,000, it could be an organization of 50,000. As long as you build your FlexPod architecture correctly within your data center, whether it's a co-location or a physical data center, it's proven itself to be extremely scalable.

It becomes an Achilles tendon when an organization leveraging FlexPod does not build enough scalable resources. That's when layering applications does cause issues. I've seen that both from a security perspective, as well as an application performance perspective.

How are customer service and technical support?

We use technical support all the time. The collaboration between Cisco and NetApp is actually very good. We use both platforms. Even though we work with Cisco directly to utilize HyperFlex architecture, which competes with FlexPod, the customer service isn't competitive and remains collaborative. There is no finger-pointing, which is very surprising. More often than not, we're able to satisfy an anomaly or technical issue easily. The technical support is very, very good.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We hated taking racks down or putting them up just to deploy a simple solution. If we need an application and had to put another rack up, it means using a lot of resources. Instead, we could launch a virtual machine. The network, the compute and the storage is in a single solution.

If you have to spend more time during a day fixing computers, servers and the network than you do focusing on what you make money from, you don't need to be in the business you are in. That's why they provide hyperconverged technologies that are data-center-centric out of the box. You buy it, you bracket, turn it on, load an application onto it, and then you build it. 

It all started many years ago when IBM created the most intelligent compute system in the world. Everybody logged into a VT100 terminal. They didn't care about what was going on in the machine. They logged in and it worked. Then some guy decided to break it apart and create a disparate network. When they figured out they realized it was too sophisticated. As the company grew they needed a server for every single application. That's why you see the evolution of VMware and Citrix and the evolution of converge.

The future of things moved away from just hardware. The future of things now is going to be like hyperconverged but in a very virtual form. That's the reason why Cisco is buying organizations like BroadSoft. They want to get into organizations that provide virtual services.

How was the initial setup?

The product is actually easy to set up. It's self-learning. It's methodical. At the same time, you have to go through all the minutia of the networking layer, the storage layer, the compute layer to focus on the foundation. Then prepare it for application download and then application build on either databases or the application itself based on the OS that it resides on. The model is quite simple.

What about the implementation team?

We do the implementations.

What was our ROI?

People go to the cloud today and think that it's going to save them money. Actually, if you're going to go to the cloud, you're going to spend more money. The difference between going to a cloud infrastructure and having your own private cloud like say FlexPod, the cost structure is the same. You're going to need humans to continue to manage, maintain and run it. You're going to continue to do a refresh on it because technology will get old. Cisco and NetApp will never sit on their laurels. They won't just create FlexPod and have only one model. Over time, switches, routers, storage, interfaces and things like that will change.

That's why I think it's important that we don't focus too much on ROI. ROI is not the amount of money you spend on FlexPod or cloud that equates to revenue. ROI is whether you have a good product that allows your company to leverage technology. FlexPod enhances the way you go to market. That is an ROI. 

If a CFO wants to do a 10-year map to see how long is it going to make up the investment, you don't need to buy FlexPod. You need to talk to how you to go to the market efficiently. You needed to ask yourself whether your company will be viable and competitive to stay in the market landscape with respect to what you sell. 

You have to understand why you're spending that money. If not then this investment will not make sense.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We considered VMware, Citrix, going full cloud, sharing with a cloud, handing it off to a managed service provider, building it ourselves, rack and stack — pretty much everything was on the table. FlexPod is a good product. I think they just need to continue to keep up the pace with organization like Nutanix and those types of organizations to be able to compete.

You can't get in trouble going with Cisco and NetApp. If you get stuck or have an issue, support is there. The inner partnership, inner engineering, and cross-pollination is there. I'm still leery of some of the up-and-coming hyperconverged organizations out there trying to compete. They may be good, dynamic, fast, growing, everybody's getting on on it, but they're not backed by two large publicly-traded organizations that have a legacy foundation that's been tried and proven for what they do and do best. 

What other advice do I have?

I would probably give this solution a seven-and-a-half or an eight out of ten. It isn't higher because I know that if I were to look at a very dynamic data-center solution, there are organizations who can do it a lot more agile, more quickly, or in a more user-friendly way. It takes a very sophisticated group of people to run and maintain NetApp and Cisco. It's not just a box you put in a server. You scale it out and you log onto a graphical user interface and you manage it. When it is running, it's a very, very powerful foundation that no other hyperconverged solution out there can compete with. You cannot break it. And like I said, as long as you have the right people who know the foundations, FlexPod is a very powerful data center foundation.

I think one of the greatest things that we like about NetApp is the fabric OS and leverage that proprietary app to be able to make it self-aware of legacy storage, legacy compute, current compute and future compute.

One of the cumbersome parts that we discovered is that there are claims that say something can be done, but it takes a lot of testing and trial and error and working with our ISP to ensure that these multi-cloud, multi tendencies and applications living in it all talk to each other. In other words, it's not going to run by itself. It will continue to take a group of highly sophisticated engineers and application folks to be able to make things work.

FlexPod was built in collaboration with Cisco when they didn't have their own hyperconverged technology and when NetApp didn't have their own networking technology. The idea behind FlexPod was to build that converged and hyperconverged foundation to support it. The direction Cisco is moving in today leaves the partnership intact on that app for now, but with some of their hyperconverged solutions out there it may not stay that way. Competing HyperFlex technologies are extremely agile today, and if they continue to develop, possible partnerships with the likes of Oracle or Linux or Microsoft may be something to be reckoned with.

There are no walls to technology. As long as you code out a certified solution to dynamically support your market strategy, that's all you needed. That's what I really learned from blind spots, and that's the reason why we moved in the direction that we did.

Don't look at the price. It is more important to understand where your company is competitively in the market. If you're going FlexPod, it's going to be a journey and that FlexPod isn't going to make you money. But it's going to help you really find your company, or the next level, or the future of where you're going to be in terms of going into a market. You should not buy FlexPod because you want to be cool like other companies. It won't save you money. It is more important that it enables your organization to be more visionary and more technically dynamic.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
PeerSpot user
Senior Storage Engineer at a tech vendor with 1,001-5,000 employees
Real User
We have had scalability issues as we have grown into a large company. Though, we have seen an improvement in our application performance.
Pros and Cons
  • "The most valuable is the one support. I have a 1-800 number. I call one number rather than figuring out whether it's a network, compute, or storage issue. It is beautiful and works out nicely."
  • "We have seen a 20 percent improvement in application performance."
  • "We have experienced issues with patching. When there are Cisco releases, there are some vulnerabilities, i.e., security vulnerabilities. We are as a financial company and need to be on top patching. As a company, we cannot have continuous downtime to do patching, which is a challenge that we have faced."

How has it helped my organization?

FlexPod is a design with everything in one bag. This helped us initially when we consolidated everything into one box.

It was innovative in the beginning. So, it was a very effective proposal. We were dealing with multiple vendors and support. This initially solved our problems, so we could focus on some other areas. However, we had to come back to it and address other challenges.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable is the one support. I have a 1-800 number. I call one number rather than figuring out whether it's a network, compute, or storage issue. It is beautiful and works out nicely.

What needs improvement?

We have experienced issues with patching. When there are Cisco releases, there are some vulnerabilities, i.e., security vulnerabilities. We are as a financial company and need to be on top patching. As a company, we cannot have continuous downtime to do patching, which is a challenge that we have faced.

Another issues is that Cisco lists some patching, but NetApp is not certified for it, or vice versa. It's very difficult to keep up-to-date all our levels. Then, we slowly started spinning up our own versions of Cisco separately from NetApp and NetApp separate from Cisco. This has worked well for us.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Stability has been good.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Initially, when we started downsizing our data center, we consolidated a lot of equipment into FlexPod. The fewer racks and companies to deal with: one vendor and one support. This sounded good when we were small. Initially, everything was certified, and read and worked beautifully. However, when we scaled up, because the business grew, we had real scalability challenges, as FlexPod is designed for a small to mid-size customers.

With FlexPod, there is a vertical limit for everything.

It is somewhat resilient. If your company has equally scaled growth in all area, then maybe FlexPod is good. However, if your network is growing 200 percent, but the storage is only 100 percent, or maybe the company is only 50 percent, then the apps didn't scale up right. This will create bigger challenges.

How is customer service and technical support?

Tech support has been good. There are no issues with NetApp or Cisco. 

We would like to see the tech support timing match better with our business needs. This is definitely becoming more challenging.

How was the initial setup?

It was straightforward. There is a lot certification on the workload, so we don't have to worry about it.

What about the implementation team?

We used ACS, who was good and knowledgeable.

What was our ROI?

Our first couple of years, our ROI was good. It helped us to lower the cost on the management of setup operations. It also helped to maintain the minimal outage window, when there is an outage that happens.

We have saved 50 percent on new service deployments and a 20 percent improvement in application performance.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Everything was NetApp initially, but we were independently buying the equipment from Cisco through NetApp. This worked for us beautifully because it was the same vendor who we were dealing with and everything was certified in a box.

What other advice do I have?

There are a lot option based on your workload. Think about the next five years: How will your business grow? Then, is FlexPod is the right way to go?

In addition, what happens when there is a bug identified in one of the layer? Will you need to shut down the whole thing because just you encountered that one thing?

Everything is perfect with the validate designs. However, they are not designed for large customers. They are designed for SMBs and small data centers.

Multi-cloud environments can work well for some use cases, like expanding data centers.

We do not use FlexPod for Managed Private Cloud.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
PeerSpot user
Buyer's Guide
Download our free FlexPod XCS Report and get advice and tips from experienced pros sharing their opinions.
Updated: April 2024
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Converged Infrastructure
Buyer's Guide
Download our free FlexPod XCS Report and get advice and tips from experienced pros sharing their opinions.