What is most valuable?
From the integration standpoint, it is a lot easier to integrate than a lot of people initially felt. Being able to leverage either block or file capabilities of the storage is something that has been beneficial.
Most customers had to look at doing that in a couple different approaches. Being able to have a truly consolidated system that provides all the different types of storage protocol has been a benefit.
Our customers are using this for virtualization. This includes doing something with an open stack style of implementation, running Hyper-V, or VMware.
A lot of VMware tools with VDI NFS capabilities are very key from the VDI standpoint. There are a lot of people who utilize VDI around it.
How has it helped my organization?
It has helped my organization in terms of ease of deployment. The approach of utilizing NFS and some of the key features that have been put in for VDI help us limit boot storm and other similar issues.
I see is a lot of those things that existed in the NetApp portfolio on its own. Now we are able to leverage FlexPod as an overall solution for both compute and storage, which is a normal progression.
What needs improvement?
I usually give everything a nine, because there's potentially something better out there that I haven't come across yet. Nine says there isn't anything better, and I hesitate to give anybody top marks across the board on anything.
In terms of the feature set, I can't really think of anything right now. I am looking for changes in architectural and reference designs, which makes more information available to make sure deployments go well.
I would like to see improvements in the documentation. I understanding how things are coming together and a lot of that is from the UCS side.
I have been working with NetApp and working with fast devices for a while. I have been getting up to speed on the UCS pieces on the FlexPod.
Some of those elements were a little bit different than the standard approach and with a new product line for Cisco. It is not just about networking, but also revolves around the compute. Most of that just requires additional documentation and a better explanation of how the management interfaces work.
The UCS director is nice, now that we've got an overlying umbrella that can manage multiple pod environments. Other than that, most of the benefits are really more customer driven. I do architecture design and deployments, and I hand off the infrastructure. It goes from there to the customer.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
The stability has been fine. I haven't seen any real issues with any of the products across the board from either the UCS or the NetApp side with regards to the FlexPods. There has been no downtime related to components or system issues. Most of the downtime is due to customers not understanding the environment and not doing things correctly.
Assuming that they had things configured correctly for networking and things didn't fail over the way they expected, the same things would happen outside of a FlexPod environment.
It is a lack of understanding and making sure that the customer did things correctly. This falls under proper testing after the initial implementation and before the full production deployment.
Most of the issues tend to be typical customer types of situation where they didn't plan correctly or they didn't implement fully. They didn't fully do the testing before they got into production.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
Scalability, obviously, is phenomenal. Once you have your base system in place, and you've got your architecture the way you want it, being able to add additional compute or storage is about as simple as it gets.
How is customer service and technical support?
Technical support has been awesome. The overwhelming majority of technical support calls that I've made centered around FlexPod solutions that have been focused on the initial implementations where there have been certain code provisions about little bug issues.
I had one bad power supply show up in a device. Other than that, I haven't had any specific issues related to the environment.
Which solutions did we use previously?
We’ve worked with IBM, HPE, and Pure Storage. The only storage vendor that isn't an actual partner with Key Information is EMC.
I've been doing storage since Viber channel was invented and I've implemented Versa stacks and FlexPods. I don't think I've had an issue incorporating any other storage product in with the environment as well.
The advantage of FlexPod over the competition is ease of use. A lot of that is because NetApp already has a lot of customers who are familiar with the product. It wasn't a barrier of getting in with the FlexPod.
A lot of that was the reason we were allowed to come in and have a conversation. They were already buying NetApp storage. FlexPod added to that solution and that story.
We just really needed to come in and talk about the compute side of it and how that tied in. Most of our FlexPod work has been discussions around UCS and the Cisco side of things, and not around the NetApp side. I don't think I've run into a customer who isn't happy with NetApp.
I started using NetApp back when all they did was NFS and the waffle file system in the entertainment industry for SGI systems to store data.
I've been using them for years and years. I am now able to have block level access, as opposed to NFS. These are things that came out years and years ago, but these are the benefits that I see with this solution.
There is a common platform with both file level protocols, as well as block level protocols for a common storage infrastructure.
Instead of having to add your ICE storage and your fiber channel storage, or having an NFS gateway into those kinds of things, you can have everything incorporated.
Obviously, having all the protection capabilities of the snap features, snap vault, snap ears, and snap cleans have added value to it as well.
What other advice do I have?
Selecting this solution really depends on the architects. The first thing I ask is why they think they need to upgrade and what it is that is driving it.
A lot of times, unfortunately, a lot of upgrades aren't really upgrades. They are just product refreshes. They are just making sure that customers understand that just doing a product refresh may, or may not, meet their future growth needs.
On my side, I try to help people understanding what they want to do, and why they are going about it.
We want to help them understand if there are any other future things coming into play that may, or may not, determine whether they are better off sticking with what they have. That could be a hybrid array, going with all-flash, or sticking with the spinning disc array with some flash cache for their environment. We want to make sure they're not getting too little or too much for what they really need.
Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
Jul 26 2017