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NetApp, Cisco expand FlexPod for smaller private clouds

NetApp and Cisco today said they are expanding their FlexPod reference architecture, which consists of NetApp storage arrays, Cisco servers and networking, and software from other partners. NetApp and Cisco are adding an entry-level FlexPod that uses NetApp FAS2240 storage with Cisco C-Series Nexus 5000 Switches, Nexus 2232 Fabric Extender and UCS 6200 Fabric Interconnects.

The entry-level version is the first FlexPod to use NetApp’s FAS2000 entry-level storage systems and Cisco rack-mounted UCS devices. The other FlexPod architectures use NetApp FAS3200 and FAS6200 arrays and bladed UCS versions. The entry-level system is to support 500 to 1,000 users. It also the first FlexPod with iSCSI boot support.

“When we started [with FlexPod] we were talking about scaling from the midrange of our product families to the high end. Today we’re talking about an entry-class system,” said Jim Sangster, senior director of solutions marketing for NetApp. “It has the same common structure for support and management.” Sangster said more than 850 customers use the FlexPod reference architecture.

NetApp launched its FlexPod architecture in 2010 mainly as an answer to rival EMC’s Vblock integrated stack, but the storage vendors take different paths in bringing the products to market. Vblocks are sold through VCE, an alliance consisting of EMC, Cisco and VMware. They also have specific model numbers and configurations. NetApp sells FlexPod as a reference architecture that the vendor and partners can configure according to customer workloads. Although Cisco is a VCE partner, it maintains a close relationship with NetApp on the FlexPod architecture.

Adding an entry level version and more Cisco gear isn’t a huge announcement, but it underscores NetApp’s commitment to its converged architecture strategy for virtual infrastructure and private clouds. The same goes for EMC, which is preparing for a Thursday event to launch a new bundle that it claims will “dramatically simplify the deployment of private cloud.”

NetApp’s Sangster also pitches FlexPod as a faster and less expensive way for customers to build a private cloud. NetApp and Cisco said they have pre-tested automation and orchestration software from CA Technologies, Cloupia and Gale Technologies, with pre-validated software coming for monitoring and analytics. The automation and orchestration software is CA Automation Suite for Data Centers, Cloupia Unified Infrastructure Controller and GaleForce Turnkey Cloud for FlexPod.

“These vendors, with more coming, have met specific levels of API support,” said Satinder Sethi, VP of Cisco’s Server Access Virtual Technology Group. “This validates they have achieved a certain level of integration and makes sure we have management of the storage, network and server layers.

Customers can also manage FlexPod via open APIs from Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud, VMware vCloud Director or VMware vCenter Server.

Sangster said customers can scale the entry level FlexPods for capacity by adding additional FAS2240 nodes or scaling up to a FAS3200 or FAS6200. They can scale capacity by adding UCS server nodes. There is no data migration required to move from one NetApp system to another, and all UCS models are managed by Cisco UCS Manager.

Unlike VCE’s Vblocks, FlexPods do not have specific model numbers. Sangster said some partners sell small, medium and large reference architectures but they are not limited to specific NetApp and Cisco products. “There’s not a hard-coded bill of materials,” he said.

The new configuration options will be available next month.

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