FlexPod Review
It's a one-stop shop. For any issue we have, we make one call, they all pull together and they fix it.

Valuable Features

Obviously, the most valuable feature is the fact that it's one SKU. Basically, if we have an issue with any one of our features – whether it's VMware, Cisco or the NetApp – they pull everybody together and they work together to solve the issue. It's a one-stop shop. Any issue we have, it's not a matter of that vendor, this vendor or the other vendor. We make one call, they all pull together and they fix it.

Improvements to My Organization

FlexPod has just simplified it, really. As I’ve mentioned, they all work together. We’ve had it verified that it works together. We know we don't have any sort of device issues, driver issues and so on. We know that if we upgrade the NetApp, the UCC is supported, the Cisco switches are supported. If we upgrade the Cisco switches, we know that they've verified that the version we're going to is going to work and we're not going to have any issues. It makes upgrading much simpler, more secure, safer for us.

Room for Improvement

My one little pet peeve with all of them is that it's still multiple interfaces. I went to a UCC seminar and they said something like, "Use UCC to run everything." You go to VMware and I know VMware's going to run everything. You go to NetApp and they say something like, “No, no, no. NetApp's going to run on everything.” It would be nice if someone could create a pane that does it all.

It’s not because we purchased each component on our own and had it verified. We've actually bought two FlexPods recently for our voice mail implementation, switching over from Avaya, I think, to Cisco. We bought mini FlexPods for that. There still isn’t a single pane.

When I went to the Cisco UCC seminar a couple of years ago, they said something like, "We can run PowerShell scripts against it, so you can build your structure.” If someone in UCC wants to provision storage, they can do it from that pane. With VMware, you have the SMVI interface. I've gone to the NetApp Insight conference for three years now. The first year, I went to an SMVI session where the guy said something like, "No, no, no; SMVI's going to do everything for you, from VMware." There's still that disconnect. That could be improved.

If I go to NetApp System Manager, it would be great if there was a tie-in to UCC, a tie-in to VMware, versus having to go to three distinct apps. Right now, if I provision the storage for VMware, I provision the storage, then I have to pass it off to the VMware guys. They have to go mount it, and then I have to go back to it to set up my SMVI jobs. That part gets a little annoying.

Stability Issues

We don't have any stability issues. No problems there. It's just solid.

Scalability Issues

We didn't buy the actual FlexPod as a unit. We got it verified as a FlexPod. We actually kind of built it piecemeal. We bought the individual components and then had it verified for FlexPod. We've actually had no issues expanding that, growing any portion of it, whatsoever. We actually added 20 UCC blades; no issues. Since I've been there, in two years, we've gone from 1.5 PB to 3 PB; again, no issues, no worries.

Customer Service and Technical Support

We use technical support all the time. They're very good. I've not had to deal with the whole TAC issue, with all of them pulling together. We actually did just have an issue with one of our UCC upgrades on one system. We made one phone call. NetApp got pulled in, VMware got pulled in, and Cisco got pulled in. They figured out the issue and they solved it. In that respect, the support's fantastic.

We actually have an account manager that's dedicated to us. Any time we don't get an answer right away, we can get to her and she escalates it. We get our answers pretty quickly.

Previous Solutions

I've actually been working with NetApps for 15 years now, way before FlexPods; the 800 series, way back when; had a StoreVault for a little while and then the 2200 series. Working with Icon is my first leap from the small business to a global enterprise.

Other Advice

Go with it. Seriously. There are a lot of solutions out there. Converged infrastructure's trying to push its way in. We've looked at it. Maybe for a small company starting out, it might be okay but it won't scale to the level that the FlexPod can scale to, have the same performance, and guarantee that you're going to have it all work together.

It does what it says it's going to do. It makes life much easier all around. It's not a solution where you have to sit there and say, "Is this switch going to work with this system?" The systems are more complicated, they’re more complex, the bandwidth is faster. Anytime you have an issue or a mismatch in config, hardware, drivers, and so on, you're going to have a big issue down the line. Being able to be in a FlexPod, where they're sitting there saying, "No, if you buy this piece, you buy this piece and you buy this piece, we guarantee it's going to work," that's a huge, huge plus.

The most important criteria for me when selecting a vendor to work with are responsiveness and ease of use; those two are the biggest. The technology's pretty similar across the board. They all do what they say they're going to do. I haven't worked with EMC. I hear that, for each level, you need to know different commands, different stuff. With NetApp, being able to go from a 2200 series to an 8040 series with the same commands is fantastic. I like that, and they are very responsive. Ease of use, responsiveness and performance, of course, but, as I’ve mentioned, they all do what they say they're going to do, pretty much.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.

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