The most valuable features are the ACI integration with overall FlexPod and the Application-Centric Infrastructure. This is especially the case with Vnomic automation software for SAP specific workloads. Those elements are great for us as a service provider. We love the integration with the UCS chassis and it allows us to scale. It really ensures faster realization of value for our customers. The type of workloads we are using it for are with SAP workloads at this point however we do plan on expanding into other enterprise-types applications in the near future.
Improvements to My Organization
The benefit is the realization of value for our external and internal customers, especially as we are leveraging Vnomic automation. Deployments take a lot of time. Manual deployments of SAP workloads can take months, but with this automation that we have now, we can deploy within weeks or even hours in some cases. This has tremendously reduced the potential for human error, soft dollars for deployment, and provides a secure and auditable environment for our customer base.
Room for Improvement
The CVD process requires additional development and validation from each of the vendors involved, which does not allow us to be at the cutting edge of technology. For instance, I'm currently waiting for the next generation of the FlexPod to come out that has the flash integration. As with any platform, scale is always the biggest thing. I would like to see some improvements in terms of scale especially in the way Netapp handles production SAP workloads.
I made a reference to not being able to leverage flash today as an example, an additional example of this would be the fact in the current iteration of the CVD we are following, from the ESX side, we are limited to vSphere 5.5 and from an OS perspective we are limited to RHEL 6.7, and not able to move up to RHEL 7.2.
In both cases this is due to the fact it hasn’t been fully validated from the vendor testing in their labs. From a SAP DB/application support standpoint, this limits our ability to provide some of the recent releases of SAP software like HANA 2.0 for instance as it requires the latest RHEL version (7.2) and ESX (6.x) to run in production.
While this is in the vendor’s roadmap to wrap up this year, I’m dependent on vendor lab testing as opposed to having our teams certify via our existing Agile methodology to ensure we can always provide the latest and greatest technologies to our customer base.
Stability, with the UCS/ACI/Vnomic/Netapp, is pretty good from what I've seen so far. I don't really have concerns from that perspective but I'll have a better feeling as this product matures. Following the CVD, it really helps us ensure that everything's been tested through-and-through with all the partnerships as a part of the CVD. We can have that piece of mind that it has been validated.
Scalability, with the ACI, is great. You can get up to a 15 chassis setup, depending on whether you are using 260s or 460s. That is great for us. There are limitations from the storage side that makes capacity management a bit difficult, but nothing strong reporting cannot resolve.
Customer Service and Technical Support
Considering that it is FlexPod, and you have got the 1-800-FLEXPOD line, it is great for us as a service provider. We don't have to chase down each individual vendor that is a part of that overall FlexPod. We can call one number and we get the support that ties in to the partner integration from that. They are very helpful and knowledgeable and always seem willing to help out, no matter what the issue may be. It's great.
We leverage 3PAR in some cases. It really depends on our customer base. The advantages of FlexPod over 3PAR are that FlexPod is all integrated. It's a little bit more native, overall. That's really the major difference there. Also, since Netapp is a fully NAS based deployment and 3par being a mix of FC/NAS, it makes it easier to manage the Netapp from a capacity/deployment view.
Some of the other advantages with NetApp, are that it scales within that environment. It's not really plug-and-play like 3PAR, from the storage app perspective. With that integration, however, everything is native. With the Vnomic software, it handles the automatic deployment of the storage. That's great for us because I don't need to perform manual touches on the environment. That really allows us to stay focused on our customers and the workloads.
With a CVD being provided for this solution, setup and configuration is pretty straightforward.
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