FlexPod Review

Flexible architecture means I can swap out storage and easily replace failed drives

What is our primary use case?

We use it for some 90 servers and systems. It runs our primary student information system, we have our phone systems through it, our email. Everything is running on it, all critical functions, all critical servers.

How has it helped my organization?

Because it's virtual, I don't have issues. All the hardware that's tied into it, whether it's memory, disk, etc., it's all seamless. It's not a big deal to make changes, it's not a big deal to upgrade. I've had drives that have failed. It's not a big deal, you just pop it out and pop the new one in and everything's fine.

What is most valuable?

I really like the architecture and I like the fact that on the storage side I can swap it out. Right now I'm on NetApp, I might go to Pure Storage. I have the flexibility. But as far as the equipment itself, the way it's all bundled together, from the UCS perspective, its rock solid.

I run all the critical applications for the university on my FlexPod solution. It needs to be up 24/7, 365. I don't need "five nines," I need "eight nines" - and it stays up.

What needs improvement?

I'd like to see a little more on the provisioning and the replication piece. I've defaulted to Veeam as our vehicle for backup. I'd like to see more insight and more analytics.

I'm going to pick on Cisco: Their products are great and they do a great job. But, especially in this day and age with the college dealing with the EU and GDPR and a lot of other issues, I really need the analytics; that's what really helps me to sell me the solution. It's a cost. Whatever I can do from an analytics side that helps me deal with different things, will only help. GDPR and the EU's requirements are more security based, but there are also some data components buried in there regarding how you are handling the data. How are you storing it? For some of those pieces, I really need a good solution. I don't want to say analytics is lacking, I just want more analytics.

For how long have I used the solution?

More than five years.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability is fine, I'm on my third or fourth iteration with it. As far as I can see, I'm probably going to stick with it.

How are customer service and technical support?

For the most part, technical support has been on the software side with VMware. As far as going through TAC, we have not had to use it too much. I've been on FlexPod now for about seven, or eight years, and the number of times I have called TAC on issues is very very small. Most of the time, if there is something, I deal with my VAR and they have been great to deal with. I've never had any major issues.

TAC has been really good. The other thing that I do is I work very closely with my account manager, he's a great guy, Tyrone. He has been great to work with and the nice thing for me is that he has brought in the right people. From a data center standpoint, Jamie has been up to see me I don't know how many times. I say, "Here's what I'm trying to do," and they say, "Here are the different options you have," and they try to help us figure out the right way to go, from their perspective. I bring in my guys and we try to put it all together.

I really like the team approach, for me, it's an advantage. I do have other options but it's just so easy to work with them. I get what I need, I get the scalability, I get the future-proofing. I don't have issues. I have too many other things to worry about. If I can eliminate one I'll take it.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Before FlexPod it was all physical servers. Believe me, the time savings, the issue reduction, I can't say enough about the solution over physical servers, to do it justice. It's night and day.

When I'm looking at a vendor, cost is always a component but that's not number one. My number one is their professionalism in getting me through from soup to nuts: from the start of the project all the way to the end, to make sure that it's running right. And on "Day Two", support. If they cover that whole project, I'm good.

How was the initial setup?

The setup is pretty straightforward. The biggest thing I would say to you if you were looking at doing one is, really look at your VAR. Find one that has done it before and that will help you to make sure you don't have any major pitfalls.

What other advice do I have?

I've recommended Flexpod a few times. Every one of them has been extremely happy with it. It's a solid workhorse, especially in shops like mine where we're in the small to mid-range and I don't have the people to sit there and just babysit something. I have too many things for them to do. This product is really good. I don't want to say it's a set-it-and-forget-it, but the daily, hands-on is so light. The visibility - even though I pick on the analytics - is decent. I can get my guys to manage it, but it also frees them up so I can get them working on other things, which is critical in this day and age.

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

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