FlexPod Review
Validated architecture means, once in place, they can use the platform within a day

What is most valuable?

  • It's a validated architecture, so it's fairly simple to implement.
  • The support is unified, so troubleshooting becomes less complicated. 
  • It's very easy to expand the solution for performance and capacity growth.

How has it helped my organization?

Turnkey. When we put the solution in place, they're able to use the platform within a day of us being complete. It's very quick to implement.

What needs improvement?

From its prime competitor, seeing some sort of an architecture around cloud built into the solution would be great, whether that's UCS Director or vRealize Automation, something that's got a validated architecture that's ready to go for that solution would be useful.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Because it's all based off of mature hardware with UCS and NetApp and Cisco across the board, it's a very stable platform, it's very quick. There are always little things that we can improve here and there, and configuration changes depending on what the customer is doing. But for the most part, it's a very fast solution and simple to work with.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

There are configuration maximums of each platform. I've yet to see an environment that we've hit those numbers on yet, but with the technologies that NetApp is releasing with All Flash, and the new blades from Cisco, we keep getting ahead of any kind of limits with technology advances.

How is customer service and technical support?

Most technical support issues that we have with the solution as a whole are usually around specific components, a failed drive or a bad blade; generally equipment that hasn't been burned in yet so it's dead-on-arrival, and we don't know it until we get it set up. Generally, we've had pretty good luck with such equipment getting turned around pretty quickly, so we can leave the site with everything fully functional.

How was the initial setup?

I'm involved in most processes from scoping the solution and design through implementation and sometimes support.

Setup for Flexpod is pretty much cut and dry. Our methodology leverages the configuration worksheets that Cisco and NetApp have put together. We have those pre-filled and vetted by the client before we arrive on site. When we get on site it's a very procedural-based implementation. The unknowns are generally limited to a handful of items and we can work through those pretty quickly. The setup is very simple, and very scripted.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

The major competitors are probably EMC with Vblock, and Nutanix is bringing up competition pretty quickly, and their solution is less expensive to get in on entry-wise, so that's a real competition point.

The advantage of FlexPod, specifically against Nutanix, is that we we can expand any single component of the solution without having to expand the entire solution. So if we want to add disk or add blades, compute nodes, we don't have to add everything at once. Incremental expansion is less costly. Additionally, NetApp is a more mature company in general - as are Cisco and VMware - than Nutanix is, so their future is fairly well set, where Nutanix's future is still relatively uncertain. That's not due to product reliability issues, but just due to market acceptance and maturity as a company.

Over EMC, EMC's products are generally more complicated to use and less robust overall. With their ever-changing landscape of ownership and acquisitions and leadership challenges, it's tough to say where their products are going to land the next few years.

What other advice do I have?

Don't just buy the solution that your sales guy is trying to sell you. Understand what your needs are, understand what your I/O requirements and capacity requirements are, and leverage the sales team's engineers to truly devise the solution that you're going to actually take advantage of. 

Don't get caught up in price, initially. The sales teams can always work on price. Focus on what the solution is going to do for you, and is it actually going to meet your needs. Then deal with price after that.

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

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