FlexPod Review

Reliable, easy to manage and has decreased the footprint in our data centers

What is our primary use case?

Our primary use case is for all of our data storage and so primarily VMware virtualization. We run over 95% of all of our computers running on VMware.

How has it helped my organization?

We initially started out with siloed clusters and now we've been able to cluster everything together so that we have multiple nodes in our clusters. We have multiples on different data in different data centers. We've able to do replication between data centers. That's been very beneficial for us as we look to derive a mature DR model.

Our data center costs have been lowered. We are in a bit of a unique position where we have a different group that actually pays for the costs of the data center, so we don't see a specific benefit. It's been cost savings in terms of a far smaller footprint in two data centers and then also the associated fewer networking costs as we're just consuming fewer and fewer ports as we've gone to the FlexPod model.

Unplanned downtime incidents have absolutely decreased in my organization. We went from having somewhere around three to five outages every year to us not having had any outages in the past four or five years. That's been very, very beneficial for us.

What is most valuable?

We've always appreciated the value of the NetApp because it's been incredibly reliable. It's at a decent price point. We are a local government entity and so we have funding issues that probably some commercial entities don't have, but we've been able to buy cost-effective solutions. We feel that this has scaled in terms of technology improvements over the years, but ultimately we're a small team that manages all the systems and we're split in a thousand different directions and so storage management's a very small part of my day or week. The reliability and the relative ease of use, are the real things that keep on bringing us back to NetApp. It's been the reliability and ease of management.

In terms of the importance of FlexPod's validated designs for major enterprise apps, we are a big consumer of SAP, so it's important that we have all products that fit into the SAP hardware compatibility list and whatnot. 

It simplifies the infrastructure from edge to core. It's been an easy configuration for us. We have separate teams that manage all pieces of the infrastructure and I think that it helps the collaboration be a little bit easier.

FlexPod's history of innovations has maybe helped us in the context that we've traditionally always been a spinning disc environment where that's the price point that we've typically been able to afford to spend our money. We're starting to deviate away from going with the SaaS layer and SATA layer to more of an SSD layer and SATA because of flash pools, which is a new technology that we were able to leverage on the SSD discs. That is working us into a position where there's less and less demand for us.

The unified support for the entire staff is very important because we've been a NetApp partner at my current company for at least eight years and we have 95% virtualized on VMware and we transitioned away from multiple vendors to a Cisco UCS server stack almost exclusively. We're very dependent on those technologies to keep our business running. We run 911 services for multiple jurisdictions and these old services have to be available 24 hours a day.

It has improved the performance of our application by around 50% because as the models matured in our data center and we went from a lot of local storage to centralized storage. We made a big investment in storage, so we're also putting a lot of confidence in the system to deliver the IO that we need and that's proven to be the case.

What needs improvement?

Something that we struggle with because we're a relatively small scale organization and the administrative effort is spread across so many different pieces of infrastructure, it would be nice to have a set of tools that enables us to get a little bit more information out of our system. Right now we're in the process of looking at OCI. We have free trial licenses for a two year period and we're investing quite a bit of time into writing reports and allowing it to tell us more information about our systems because we don't have a lot of time and we don't have a lot of sexy tools out there to give us information. We're going to go through this exercise with OCI, but at some point, that tool's going to go away and we may not have the funding to keep it on-premises. There are metrics and there's information in the system that a normal consumer like ourselves, a smaller organization, would probably not be privy to that information. It would be nice if some of those reporting capabilities were available just as a part of the ordinary suite of software that people buy.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using FlexPod for the last eight years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We deployed it in conjunction with several VARs. We worked with Peak Resources. They are somebody that we've had a relationship with for quite a while. We are very happy with the engineering staff. We feel like it's a good working relationship and they've served us well.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We are a consumer of Cisco UCS, we constantly adding blades into the infrastructure as needs arise and we're constantly purchasing storage multiple times a year. We know that the solution scales well and is very flexible in that regard. We can add SSD as we need. 

How are customer service and technical support?

The technical support is fantastic. We're in Denver, Colorado and we've got a really good strong team out there associated with NetApp, so we are happy with the partners and we are happy with NetApp themselves. It's all been great. No issues.

What was our ROI?

We feel the ROI is good. It's really helped us get rid of a few hundred physical servers that were unreliable and had inconsistent performance. Now we have a platform that is consistent and has a lot of native high availability capabilities built into it. Snapshots, RDP, just simple things like that that offer us an immense benefit.

What other advice do I have?

We've been highly supportive of FlexPod and we continue to be highly supportive. We've had a lot of go-arounds with the peers and other state and local government organizations and we've had some people abandon what they've done and go the same route that we've gone. We feel that's a bit of a success story for us because we believe in the product.

I would rate it a solid eight out of ten. Not a ten because there's always budgetary issues. Specifically related to the Cisco side of things, we've seen very, very strong fluctuations in some of the pricing of the hardware and being a local government entity where we don't have the ability to just find money for things out of thin air, which a lot of commercials and the prices seem to do, we have very, very fixed budgets and so that's a frustrating process to go through. But the NetApp pricing's generally been pretty consistent. We generally have a four year replacement cycle. So the money that we allocate for replacements generally is pretty right on cue for what our capacity needs are.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?


Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner.

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