FlexPod Review
We have two heads in separate data centers approximately one mile apart with dark fiber. There is high availability and high resiliency within our data structure.

Valuable Features

We're using the mirroring capability of the FlexPod. We're having the two heads in separate data centers that are approximately one mile apart with dark fiber. We really like the capability of having that high availability and high resiliency within our data structure, our data centers. That's one of the features.

High availability is outstanding. We haven't had any problems with that.

We've got a FAS6210 and performance is really outstanding, as well.

Improvements to My Organization

The high availability feature is what we were really looking for, because we have a campus center, where we have two data centers on campus. So, it just made sense. It was the best fit for us at the time to be able to do that mirroring between the data centers, and be able to also have other aggregates for other purposes; all built into one SAN.

Stability Issues

With the hardware and the way that the matrix is formed to validate the infrastructure, everybody does their homework and makes sure that everything is going to be fully supported. When you do have an open case, there is one point of support and you do not have everyone finger-pointing at each other. That was the other big advantage and big selling point for us; that was another feature that drew us to the FlexPod.

Scalability Issues

We're running a 7-mode right now. With CDOT out there and it being the current operating system, that's going to be a challenge for us. Our roadmap is to go to CDOT gradually over the next two years, so the scalability for us isn't as much of a factor. We're not adding shelves. We're not going wide. We want to be able to scale up and that, honestly, is a bit of a challenge because there's no direct migration between the two right now. That's going to be something that we'll have to look into within the next two years. That's on our roadmap.

I'm not up to date on all the options surrounding that migration right now, but CDOT and 7-mode don't translate. You can't just migrate or upgrade from one to the other seamlessly. If they come out with that, that's something I would look forward to. It's always been a challenge to go from one SAN to the other. There's newer technology, sometimes third party, that can help you get there, but usually it is not possible to have a seamless translation or transition.

The only other area with room for improvement is the interoperability matrix. Sometimes, when the newer versions of any of the partners’ firmware or software come out, there's still sometimes a lag of the partners to support all of those new components. Sometimes, when we are going to a newer version of ONTAP, not everything is supported. Therefore, we can't go to that because of this or because of that. For instance, with vSphere 6, we were held back some because of the hardware interoperability matrix not supporting all the components.

Customer Service and Technical Support

We have used technical support, although not recently. We've pretty much gotten what we expected out of it. We haven't had any major, major issues. We did have some performance issues. That was a couple of years ago; it took a while to track down. Overall, I think support was adequate and we did finally get what we needed. This was pretty much only directed towards NetApp. It wasn't really the Cisco or the VMware components. The support was directed between the parties and handed off appropriately whenever we've needed it.

Previous Solutions

We were previously using something I would not really call a "SAN", definitely not an enterprise-level one. We got to the point where we kind of handcuffed ourselves by not being able to expand or grow that system. It was really at the limits of what we could do with it.

Obviously, fiber channel versus iSCSI is definitely the direction we wanted to go, plus we wanted the high availability. At the time, we looked at a couple other systems and basically the FlexPod definitely met our needs the best. Also, we knew that it could grow.

In fact, about a year or year and a half ago, when we were spec'ing out our system and making a decision on a SAP ERP program, one of the deciding factors for adopting that technology was that we already had the infrastructure to support it because we had the FlexPod in place.

Initial Setup

Initial setup was complex. We were making a pretty big forklift in our environment by putting that in. The design took quite a while, but I'm glad that we did take the time to do that design because it allowed us to have an environment that suited us very well for three-plus years now.

Other Solutions Considered

Basically, EMC was the bigger other vendor. We did look very briefly at HP but EMC was the bigger vendor that we were looking at, at the time.

We eventually chose FlexPod mostly because of the FlexPod system’s ability to be split into two different data centers with, basically, one system. Price point was another one, but it just suited our needs almost to a T; it really met the requirements that we were looking for at the time. EMC could do the same thing but it was basically two separate systems and it was a much higher price point.

The most important criteria for my company when selecting a vendor to work with are the stability of the company, the quality of the product, customer service and support. That’s a big deal for our company. We want to make sure that the company that we're dealing with has a similar culture to our own, which is high customer service. We value that.

Other Advice

The idea of the FlexPod: We've all probably experienced the difficulties of working without that type of reference architecture and that acknowledgement of the support. You waste a lot of time because there are going to be problems. There are going to be troubles that you have to go through and the vendors working together on the support has been a value to us. I think almost everybody in this industry has probably gone through that at some point, where you know that a problem lies with one of these three manufacturers, but you spend way too much time finger-pointing and you don't get to the heart of the issue. That was one of the definite advantages of the FlexPod.

Overall, it's really suited our needs. At a time when the storage is kind of a moving target, I think that we did get what we paid for; we have a valued product. We have not had any type of bad experiences that, to me, that would steer us away from NetApp in the future.

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

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