FlexPod Review
The hardware and software is disjointed, so we can apply service profiles.

Valuable Features

We like that the FlexPod is dense; it offers a lot of power in a small package. Specifically, with the Cisco UCS, we like that the hardware and end software is disjointed, so we can apply service profiles and our VMware environment is a little more dynamic that way.

Improvements to My Organization

It's brought management into a manageable situation. We came from a data center full of Dell servers and it was getting out of hand. Cisco UCS and NetApp together in one package makes it much easier to manage. Also, as we roll out new sites, it's a very simple build that we know exactly what we need every time.

Room for Improvement

I'd like to see more modularization with NetApp's management and performance monitoring. I know NetApp has a product called OnCommand Insight that covers everything but we don't necessarily need all those features. That’s made it hard for us to justify the purchase there. So, I’d like to see more modularization of the management and monitoring tools.

For instance, if we could have Insight run management and monitoring for the UCS and NetApp at the same time, that would be great. At the same time, we might not need all of its features; maybe, a broader scope of products with more modularization of features and use cases. What I’m thinking is being able to pick and choose the features, or have a watered-down version of it. I'm reaching for that. It's already pretty good.

Stability Issues

We've had no stability problems with FlexPod; no problems with Cisco UCS or the NetApp side at all. The auto support's great. For both, we get notifications and the parts are already on the way before we can even consider calling in an RMA. We're really happy with that.

Scalability Issues

Of course, with NetApp, you can add expansion shelves. NetApp's very expandable, easily expanded. With the UCS, we can add blades, we can add chassis. We have 18 UCS domains, I think, right now, all with NetApp storage backing it, whether it be E series or FAS; we have both.

Customer Service and Technical Support

We have not used technical support for FlexPod in a long time because, as I’ve mentioned, we've had good experience deploying FlexPod as a whole solution. We haven't had any problems deploying these. For actual day-to-day support, auto support takes care of pretty much everything. Very, very once in a while, we have an issue that we actually have to call in support, but most of the time it's hand off.

When we do call in for support, the Cisco side of it is fairly poor until you get past tier 1. In that situation, we have support and they're supposed to call us back, but a lot of times we don't get call backs. The TAC location that we can call to changes fairly frequently, so we've had some issues there. The NetApp side of things has been flawless, though.

Previous Solutions

I wasn't involved in the decision process to invest in a FlexPod. They decided on that before I joined the team. I know they evaluated Dell and IBM, and found that FlexPod was the clear choice.

One of the most important criteria for me in selecting a vendor is support; how quick they respond for RMAs and cases is a big one. I like to see how the sausage is made, exactly what the products do and how they do what they do. I like to evaluate on a very, very technical level before we make any decisions.

Initial Setup

I was not involved in the initial setup, but I've been involved in setting up 10-12 of the 18 FlexPods that we have. Setting them up is very, very easy. There are validated design documents out there; it's very well documented. We've found that there is really no ambiguity at all in the setup and configuration; deployment.

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

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