FlexPod Review

Simple management, good automation, and has lowered our total cost of ownership

What is our primary use case?

We use this system for the performance, cost of ownership, agility, expandability of it, and the automation.

I manage this solution, but I don't think of the FlexPod solution on a whole. I manage all of the individual components including Cisco UCS Manager, UCS Director, and UCS Central. I work with all of the storage devices including the flash arrays and the filers. I work with the switches via Flex channel or on the ethernet side.

We use the solution's tiering to a public cloud for archival purposes. We have everything in-house for the most part, but there is some data that is not that critical but needs to be archived because of government regulations. We have to keep it for quite some time.

With respect to the history of innovation, it has affected our ease of use, cost of ownership, we use less manpower to manage it, and we have better uptime. As far as disaster recovery, that's been a really big plus because we have the two fabrics. 

How has it helped my organization?

This solution has definitely simplified our infrastructure from edge to core to cloud. It's a simple process, for example, the way you create the cloud pools. It's not complicated and very transparent.

Our staff has been made more efficient by using this solution, enabling them to spend time on other tasks. Basically, they have time to do things other than managing FlexPod. It includes day-to-day operations, working on and closing support tickets, and other mundane activities.

Our application performance has increased since we implemented this solution. One a scale of one to ten we were probably at five, and now we're at a nine.

The number of unplanned downtime incidents has absolutely decreased since we started using this solution. We went from having maybe a hundred tickets a month down to perhaps ten.

This solution has helped reduce our data center costs because everything is centralized now and we don't have to have multiple data centers, with equipment from different vendors, different support contracts, and so on.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature of this solution is the automation point because it's a lot less staff to have to manage it.

What needs improvement?

We would like to see the automation improved because there has been a learning curve having to create the workflows. They're looking at other automation tools, including one from Red Hat called Ansible. 

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

This solution is very stable. It has never gone down. We've had issues that were attributed to user error, but if everything is done correctly on it then you're not going to have to worry about any downtime.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

This solution is very scalable. UCS, itself, will scale up to twenty chassis and you have eight slots in each one. That's scalability. The same thing with storage. If you need to add more disk shelves then you just add them. As far as bandwidth goes, we have seven Ks up into the core, which is over a terabyte worth of bandwidth right there.

How are customer service and technical support?

The solution's unified support is very important to us. It's just one number to call and then we get supported on all of the different components.

On a scale of one to ten, I would rate their technical support a nine.

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

Prior to this solution, I had experience with Vblocks. It is basically the same product, but on the storage side it uses all EMC and the compute is all UCS. All of the networking is still Cisco, VMware is still VMware.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup of this solution requires some training. Once you learn it then everything is simple, but in getting to that point, there is a bit of learning curve. The complexity comes from having so many different components.

The need to have skills from several different backgrounds. You need to have experience as a network administrator, a network engineer, a storage administrator, and a virtualization expert. It is a four-technology domain that includes network, compute, storage, and virtualization. Then you have a server administrator, and you have to combine all of these roles into one person. That is where the learning curve comes from.

What about the implementation team?

On the Vblock side, they use VCE, but I don't know who they use on the FlexPod side.

What other advice do I have?

We use Cisco validated designs but we don't do our own designs.

Our decision to implement this solution was not influenced by the fact that it integrates with all of the major public clouds.

FlexPod gives you the ability to manage the system in a simplified way. It gives you automation capability, which means a lot less manpower to manage it. Power and cooling requirements are lower. The total cost of ownership is lower. Finally, it just gives staff more freedom to do some of the other mundane day-to-day operations.

I would rate this solution a nine out of ten.

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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