FlexPod Review

Time to resolving a problem goes down quite a bit

What is our primary use case?

For both data centers, everything that we use IT-wise is run on both of them.

We currently use versions 4.1 and 3.2.

How has it helped my organization?

The solution simplifies infrastructure from edge to core to cloud. It makes supporting it, troubleshooting it, and documentation a lot easier. Time to resolving a problem goes down quite a bit as well.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature is the one call number for support and the fact that all the documentation comes with it. They have all of the preprepared plans for the deployment model and we can just choose which one we want for VMware, etc. The hardware is all listed. We buy that and away we go. It's called validated design.

The validated design is nice if we have issues with anything. We can call the vendor, or if anyone says anything, we can say, "Well, we're already running by the certified design to the verify design. We're not doing anything out of the ordinary." It makes support a lot easier.

The solution’s validated designs for major enterprise apps in our organization is very important because of the whole troubleshooting problem, or if we run into any supportability problems. We say, "We've done what was asked of the company. It is all verified. We shouldn't have any funny things happening." As for management, if they come down and ask questions, we can say, "We're following best practices."

What needs improvement?

Mainly, the interface needs improvement. I'm not a big fan of UCS Manager, sometimes. I believe they released the new one, and it seems like in every version something changes and something else doesn't work. When they switched to HTML5, I believe we had issues in version 3.2. They fixed it in the next version. The amount of work to upgrade a system for change control is tedious to have issues every time. I would recommend more regression testing, then testing the different browsers in that.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using it at my current company for years. I also used it for about two years at another company before where I am now.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The solution decreased the unplanned downtime incidents in our company because it's newer, more supported. HPE had a lot of bugs in the system. Our guys would go to make a change, then all of a sudden, they would run into a bug. Next thing, we are down. There is a lot better documentation and support behind the FlexPods.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We haven't had any issues yet. Anytime that we've ever had to scale, we just add another blade chassis, and away we go. We throw in more blades. It is very easy. We reuse all of our templates for that. So, it is very quick to deploy new hardware.

How are customer service and technical support?

The technical support is the best out of all the ones that I'm responsible for calling, e.g., compared to Dell EMC. We've had issues with Dell EMC in the past, HPE as well. 

Anytime that I have called NetApp, they have an answer right away. Before with Dell EMC and HPE, we've been bounced around in their Tier 1 and 2 before you get to talk to someone who knows what is going on. That doesn't seem to happen with NetApp, or if it happens behind the scenes, we don't see it.

The solution’s unified support for the entire stack is very important to us. When we have trouble with Fibre Channel or networking, it's just one number to call. You get someone who knows the whole stack versus having to chase down Brocade, Cisco, or NetApp.

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

Before, we used to run on HPE Blade Centers, so we had a networking guy, an HPE Blade Center guy, and a VMware guy. Using UCS and FlexPod, we now have two people at the company who run that whole stack, so there is no finger-pointing. It eases a lot of troubleshooting, because it's just two people versus multiple teams.

It has improved the application performance in our company. For us, it was about replacing old hardware with new hardware. The application performance was slow before, and it is better now.

How was the initial setup?

It was straightforward because I have done it multiple times before. I've had to do it probably four times now. Now, I just know what I need to do versus the first time I had to it. We worked with a reseller and basically read all the documentation the first time.

The process for deployment is rack and stack, then upgrade to the latest firmware. We go through all our templates and gather what we're currently using compared to what the latest version of UCS offers. We make any updates, as necessary,  then reconfigure, redeploy, and away we go.

What about the implementation team?

We did it ourselves.

What was our ROI?

We went from two racks down to one at one location. We stayed the same at another location. Power-wise, we never really paid attention to it. With cooling, there is less hardware.

The solution has saved our company time.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We decided on NetApp mainly cost because of cost and the fact that we already have the in-house knowledge and expertise. Therefore, it just made sense to stay within the ecosystem we were in.

Usually, we have a look at other vendors, like Dell EMC and HPE. However, currently, it was based on the time cycle of the hardware refresh. It made sense to just go with what we already had.

We are looking at going down the next refresh with NVMe, and NetApp is the only one who offers that end-to-end solution.

What other advice do I have?

I would rate the solution as an eight (out of 10). There is always room for improvement, but it's the best technology that I have used so far.

Genuinely have an understanding of where you want to go. We've had issues before at other companies where people like a hardware. Don't look at the hardware. Instead, look at what you want to do, then work backwards.

Right now, all of our needs are currently being met. I know we're going to move towards NVMe with the one data center once we update. However, that is pretty much the newest thing on the radar for me.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?


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

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