FlexPod Review

Validated Design, stability, and collaborative support have made this a success story for us

What is our primary use case?

We have been using FlexPod for five years. We use it for our Epic environment.

How has it helped my organization?

We get a unified, collaborative support model. It conforms with the CVD and it helps us with maintaining supportability. All of our vendors give us the support that we need in a timely and effective manner.

It has also been very versatile. We have others that do not exactly conform with it and yet we still benefit from the collaborative support model. And we're not required to go to a certain thing if it doesn't work well or isn't the best case for our situation. That's been wonderful.

We're using the Epic environment on-demand workflow, and that has saved us quite literally thousands of man-hours by helping us refresh, back up, and create new instances. We wouldn't have been able to do so if it wasn't for all of that time-saving. Being able to have SUP, REL, and REL VAL DR instances, we would need to double our staff, at least, to be able to do that.

What is most valuable?

  • The design has already been validated.
  • The support element, the lack of finger-pointing, where all of the different vendors are working together collaboratively, sharing data, opening tickets with one another.
  • We already use UCS and it goes well with the vendors that we have picked.

What needs improvement?

At the beginning, there was a little bit of confusion among the support folks on how to open up tickets with the others. There needs to be a little more helping of the partners to make sure that they are able to handle opening tickets with the other vendors.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

For our Epic environment, aside from an environmental data center problem, a heating issue, we have not had any issues whatsoever with the infrastructure. From a resilience perspective, we've set it and we've been able to forget it for the most part.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We planned a five-year model for our Epic environment, so that we haven't really needed to scale. For other areas of our environment, it has scaled fairly well. The data mobility helps a lot with that, if we have to do a refresh. It's just simply vol moves, etc.

One thing to note would be that we're now looking to go into a MetroCluster IP with our FlexPod. Going from Fabric to IP, we're not able to do that with vol move. Still, we can do SnapMirror relationships and get all that data moved over.

The one other thing would be that in the transition from 7-Mode to CDOT there was no unplanned downtime, and it went very well with all the tools that NetApp has provided us.

How are customer service and technical support?

Just fantastic tech support. The chat functionality gets us in touch with top-level engineers when we need it. As a hospital, that level of support is priceless.

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

We had been using Dell EMC storage before, VPLEX, etc. We had a good bit of experience with that. 

How was the initial setup?

Because our VAR helped us with a lot of it, from our perspective it was very simple.

What about the implementation team?

Initially, for our Epic environment, we used OST. Our VAR, PEAK Resources, also specializes in converged infrastructure. It went fairly well. It was a little bit rocky at the start, but that's why we picked our VAR. Their experience and the level of investment that they make in NetApp are fantastic. They helped us a lot.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We looked at Dell EMC VCE very seriously, as it's a converged product. NetApp was a lot more flexible, it didn't require a forklift approach. We had a really great experience with NetApp specifically. We were already using Cisco, for both network as well as compute, and it just seemed like just a great play, to have that flexibility and to have the support model to help us. And it has proven to be great.

What other advice do I have?

If a colleague was looking at this or similar solutions, I would help them to understand what we've done with it for Epic and the success that we've had. I would share with them the examples of converged support as well as the stability that we've had. They are what has really made this a success story.

Regarding private, hybrid, and multi-cloud environments, I love it. The idea of the state of Fabric. We haven't been able to leverage the public cloud portion of it yet, but the whole vision of the data movement is where we want to stay, so that we're ready for the cloud where we can do that. As for private, we're looking to bring up StorageGRID to be able to offload cold blocks on our AFF. That kind of a feature set is wonderful. We don't use FlexPod for managed private cloud.

In terms of FlexPod being innovative when it comes to compute, storage and networking, it stays current. We're not five versions back because we're having to be conformed with other solutions. It seems like NetApp is doing a great job of making sure all their vendors are keeping things up to date. There have been some other than Day One-types of events that it's impossible to really get to. We're not waiting long for things to come up.

As for improvement in application performance, we started with an All Flash Epic so we've had really wonderful sub-millisecond latencies from the get-go. We haven't experienced degraded performance.

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