By Melissa Palmer, Solutions Architect, NetApp


What is a FlexPod, anyway? You may already be familiar with it, or maybe you even have one in your data center. Perhaps you’ve never even heard of it. Whatever the case, it’s time for a refresher.


FlexPod is a solution for your complete data center stack, developed by Cisco and NetApp. Both companies work together to integrate the compute, networking, and storage aspects of your data center, in order to make your life easier. Through the publication of jointly engineered Cisco Validated Designs (CVDs) and NetApp Validated Architectures (NVAs). Cisco and NetApp take the guesswork out of your infrastructure. These validated solutions consist of Design Guides, which give you the information you need to understand how a particular architecture was designed, and Deployment Guides, which give you step-by-step instructions on how to deploy your infrastructure.


One of the many great benefits of FlexPod is that you can choose exactly how your organization will consume it. Do you want it to show up on your dock, ready to plug in and deploy? Sure, you can have that. Would you rather deploy it from soup to nuts yourself, or side by side with one of Cisco and NetApp’s FlexPod partners? That works, too. Beyond your FlexPod deployment, you can also grow and scale your FlexPod on the fly with whatever components you need, whether it’s more NetApp storage, or more Unified Computing System blades. You can add what you want when you need it, and you still have a FlexPod.


Speaking of scaling your FlexPod on the fly, let’s take a look at the key components which make a FlexPod a FlexPod. A FlexPod consists of Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) servers with Fabric Interconnects, Cisco Nexus Switches, and NetApp storage. One reason these components work so well together is they really share the same fundamental theories in their architectures. Cisco UCS allows you to completely abstract the server’s personality from its hardware. You can switch out a blade, and give it the same personality as its predecessor in minutes. You can, of course, also use the UCS rack mount servers. You aren’t limited to one over the other, even in the same FlexPod.


Next come the Cisco Nexus Switches and the NetApp storage. Of course, with Cisco Nexus, a port is a port, just like a blade is a blade. The ability exists to change the personality of a port, just like you can change the personality of a server. Cisco’s NX-OS is to networking what NetApp Data ONTAP is to storage-a unified architecture. Just as I can easily run any personality on my UCS blade, I can run any protocol on my storage. Perhaps I want my blade to use NFS today, but iSCSI tomorrow. With UCS, Nexus, and Clustered Data ONTAP, this can be done quickly and easily.


Since all of the components of FlexPod are designed with usability and flexibility in mind, it simplifies managing a growing and ever-changing infrastructure. If I need to quickly expand my infrastructure, it could just be a matter of connecting new Cisco UCS blade chassis and a brand new NetApp All Flash FAS to my existing FlexPod-and yes, it’s still a FlexPod.


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FlexPod comes in a number of configurations and flavors: FlexPod Datacenter, FlexPod Express, and FlexPod Select. Perhaps the flagship of FlexPod is FlexPod Datacenter, which serves as the foundation of your infrastructure. With FlexPod Datacenter you can pick your hypervisor or application, and find a CVD to meet your needs. For example, if you’re a organization that uses VMware vSphere, you may choose to deploy a FlexPod Datacenter with VMware vSphere 6.0, which also features Cisco Nexus 9000 switching and NetApp All Flash FAS 8000 storage. Chances are this FlexPod, as it grows and evolves scaling components like UCS servers and NetApp storage, will be the fundamental building block of your data center.


What about your smaller offices? Maybe you’ve got a branch office, or a small manufacturing site, and you need infrastructure there. Perhaps you just don’t need a massive data center to meet your business needs, and a smaller scale environment is what you are looking for. Dependable infrastructure which doesn’t require a separate set of management tools or processes. Good news-there’s a FlexPod for you. FlexPod Express gives you a scaled-down version of the FlexPod you’re already used to, to meet your cost and management objectives. This also works great for organizations that may start with a FlexPod Express and grow into a FlexPod Datacenter. A key benefit is that their learning curve won’t be very large even as they continue to scale their infrastructure.


Finally, there’s FlexPod Select. There are some environments you just may not want to mix with your general infrastructure. For example, Hadoop or Oracle RAC. FlexPod Select was designed with the performance of these applications in mind. FlexPod Select for high-performance Oracle RAC can deliver up to 2 million IOPS for your business-critical Oracle environment. Now that’s flexibility and speed!


In short, FlexPod is your future-proof infrastructure platform, and can grow and evolve along with you and your business needs. FlexPod is designed with your evolution in mind, and ready to accelerate you and your organization beyond today and tomorrow.


Melissa Palmer

Melissa Palmer is a solutions architect in the NetApp Infrastructure and Cloud Engineering team. She is also VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) #236. Prior to joining the Infrastructure and Cloud Engineering team, Melissa was a systems engineer for NetApp and a VMware engineer for a number of enterprise environments. Melissa has bachelor of engineering and master of engineering degrees from Stevens Institute of Technology.