FlexPod Review

The validate designs give you an easy building block to configure and set the system up

What is our primary use case?

Our primary use case is a mixture of workloads. We have VMware, Citrix, Oracle and SAP, which are all running within the FlexPod stack.

How has it helped my organization?

It created lower total cost of ownership. Previously, we had disparate storage and servers, and there were bits of kits everywhere. Now, we have two data centers with almost identical setups in both. We are Active-Active, but we can easily swing workloads across to one data center, if need be, because it's the same underlying technology.

What is most valuable?

It's a common platform, which provides for ease of use between all of the blade servers. It uses all the same tech, moving service profiles seamlessly across from one blade to the next. There is also combined support.

What needs improvement?

There are too many management products: System Insight Manager, Oakum, etc. There are a lot of them and you have to know which one to use at which time. Whereas, with competitors, they have a single pane of glass view which has everything in it.

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It is stable. We haven't had an outage in the last year that has been caused by anything related to the FlexPod. It has been 100 percent available.

The solution is resilient. It is easy to spin up another blade with the same service profile as the existing one, then within seconds you are up and running. This can also be done in combination with VMware SRM, Oracle Data Guard, or one of the other vendors' software solutions on top with little downtime. 

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It seems scalable. It scales more than we need. I love that we will be able to scale out into the cloud and utilize that when we need it.

How are customer service and technical support?

The technical support is good. We generally call directly to either NetApp or Cisco. Every time that we have called the support has been good, NetApp especially. We've found that they stick with a problem all the way through to the end (24/7) by switching their engineers, though the underlying problem maybe even isn't a NetApp component.

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

We had such a disparate collection of servers and vendors which didn't make sense since it meant having a lot of different support contracts. We had different servers, switches, and hardware coming out of support, and keeping track of that was quite difficult. We made the decision to move to consolidate data centers. In that decision, we decided to go with FlexPod.

How was the initial setup?

We followed the validated design. Although on paper it looks quite complex, we followed the validated design and working closely with NEC, who has set up other data centers similar to ours. It was easy.

It has saved our engineers time. The initial setup to get the service profile set up took some time, but now each new blade that is put in is up and running in ten minutes. The previous service that we had would have taken about half a day to a day.

What about the implementation team?

We work with NEC, who was good.

What was our ROI?

Batch jobs which used to take two or three hours in the evening are now running in ten to fifteen minutes. This is a significant improvement.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We looked at other vendors: IBM and Dell EMC. IBM was our existing vendor at the time, and we found their support was poor. We trialed Dell EMC and FlexPod was the better solution. We were pleased with the way FlexPod went in and worked.

What other advice do I have?

Trial it. See if you can get a demo to a trial system, then put some big workloads through it and see what performance you get.

I like the validate designs. I like the way they are put together and give you an easy building block to configure and set the system up. The one negative is the interoperability matrix. This could cover a more wide range of partners. For example, we have upgraded the whole firmware across the stack, and looking at the matrix, everything looked green. However, something in Oracle would cause us an issue during the upgrade, then we would have to either rollback or sit with support. While support has been good with getting to the bottom of things, it would be nice to have more confidence when we are going into an upgrade that it will work.

Today, it looks like the software design solutions will be able to support our move into the cloud much easier than I initially thought. We are only just starting that transformation now, but I see with Data ONTAP and Cloud Volumes ONTAP, it looks like we will be easily moving our data into the cloud and making better use of the compute that is up there rather than having to expand out in our data center. 

We have four or five weather events every year which cause a huge strain on our systems with customers logging in and working out whether they have power or not, or how long the power outages will last, and whilst that happens, our databases are getting absolutely hammered. Now, historically we've had to build our data center to be able to cope with those big workloads. It's only four or five days a year, so we are effectively wasting money when we don't need to. If we can burst out to the cloud, it would really help.

I think it is innovative with this move to the cloud using ONTAP. With the whole NetApp product range being very similar in its look and feel in the cloud as it is on-prem, I feel comfortable that our engineers will be able to spin up and utilize it quite quickly.

We don't use FlexPod for Managed Private Cloud.

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

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