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NetApp, Cisco steer reference architectures into ‘express’ lane

NetApp and Cisco are expanding their FlexPod reference architecture concept to SMBs with the introduction of ExpressPod.

The best way to think of ExpressPod is as FlexPod’s little brother. FlexPod, which has been on the market for just under two years, uses enterprise storage from NetApp and servers and switching from Cisco. ExpressPod includes NetApp’s FAS2000 SMB storage and Cisco low-end Unified Computing System (UCS) servers and Nexus switches.

The first two ExpressPod architectures come in small and medium sizes. Both include Cisco UCS C220 M3 servers and Cisco Nexus 3048 switches. The small version uses NetApp FAS2220 storage with 32 server cores and the medium includes NetApp FAS2240 arrays and 64 server cores. Like FlexPods, ExpressPods are pre-validated by NetApp and Cisco and include an implementation guide. The reference architectures are sold by NetApp channel partners.

Adam Fore, NetApp director of solutions marketing, said ExpressPod architectures are designed for companies with fewer than 500 employees. ExpressPods are tested with VMware virtualization software, but Fore said the configurations also support Microsoft Hyper-V and other hypervisors.

NetApp and Cisco cite ease of use and lower cost as drivers for implementing ExpressPod, but they won’t give pricing information. They refer all pricing questions to their channel partners.

NetApp is taking a different reference architecture strategy on the lower end than its main rival EMC. While Cisco is the preferred server partner for EMC’s Vspex reference architecture on the high end, it will push Lenovo channel partners to build Vspex architectures with Lenovo servers at the SMB level.

NetApp also added clustering capabilities from its latest Data Ontap operating system (8.1.1) to FlexPods, allowing them to scale to 24 nodes. And NetApp and Cisco have added a validated FlexPod design for customers running Oracle RAC databases with VMware vSphere and vCenter.

NetApp and Cisco claim they have 1,300 FlexPod customers – up from 175 a year ago.

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