FlexPod Review
It allows us to receive support, planning and installation services from a single provider.

Valuable Features:

The most valuable features are the integration and the ability to have support, planning and installation from a single service provider.

Integration between the UCS blade side and the NetApp side is excellent.

Improvements to My Organization:

The ability to really leverage the 10-Gb connections between the UCS to the Cisco Nexus switch and then to our NetApp really improved performance for us and allowed us to experience a huge amount of growth with no loss of performance.

Also, we've been able to move to and implement a new ERP system, J.D. Edwards. Because of the modularity of the system, when we need more compute resources, we just buy more blades. If we need more disk, we just buy disk shelves. They integrated very easily.

It simplified our workflow.

Room for Improvement:

Right now, we have no flash at all in our NetApp side, so one thing we're looking forward to is going to ONTAP 9. We're also looking forward to looking at integrating some flash shelves to see what the performance will really be. Everybody tells me it's fantastic.

We're rolling out J.D. Edwards location by location so the amount of performance we're going to need is going to grow and grow and grow. So far, there's been no problems but I like the fact that I have that growth path to put in flash and improve performance if necessary.

In a perfect world, I would also love to be able to manage everything from a single pane of glass. I think we're talking about such disparate technologies that I would understand if that is very difficult to happen. In our environment, I'm in control of Cisco UCS manager and the NetApp side but when we get to the Nexus switches, I don't even have the log-ins, our networking guy does. That's something that I don't have a problem with. He's very good and he works very well together with me. It would be nice to have control from a single pane of glass.

Use of Solution:

We have been using it for about three-and-a-half years.

Stability Issues:

We've had exactly one issue and that was a related to a hardware failure, a RAM stick, that took down one blade. It was at a SQL cluster, so the other blade just took over flawlessly. We didn't have any downtime.

Scalability Issues:

The scalability is tremendous.

Previous Solutions:

Before we went with FlexPod, we were still a NetApp customer. We were using Dell rack servers connected via 1-Gb links for NFS and 4-Gb fiber channel for block storage and still running VMware vSphere. Things were okay but it was time for a hardware refresh. At that time, we evaluated Dell, HP and Cisco UCS; both rack and blade servers. We pretty much eliminated HP right away. One of the reasons we decided to go with the UCS was that our NetApp reseller was very much certified with Cisco and had a good reputation. As I’ve mentioned, it would have that one source, where we could get support for everything through that reseller. It also didn't hurt that Cisco offered a fantastic deal, where they quoted a price for their blade servers almost exactly the same as what Dell wanted for their rack servers. The price is a huge factor for our company. We're a privately held company, so price is often the primary factor.

Initial Setup:

For the initial setup, I worked with a reseller. They had two awesome engineers, one from the UCS side and one from the NetApp side. They worked hand-in-hand with me and the people at MacLean-Fogg to make sure we got everything done right. That is the real key with the FlexPod. If you get all your definitions and all your profiles set up correctly in the UCS manager, then adding a blade is very simple. You put in the blade, you turn it on, you apply that profile to the new blade and you're up and running.

The big thing with a FlexPod is, you've got to get it right at the beginning and then everything from that point on is very simple.

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

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