Cisco, NetApp Revamp FlexPod For SMBs: Call It ExpressPod9:57 AM EST Wed. Oct. 10, 2012
NetApp and Cisco Wednesday introduced an entry-level version of their FlexPod converged infrastructure, dubbed ExpressPod, in a move to expand the market for the combined server, storage, and networking solutions to smaller-size business customers.
The two also expanded their FlexPod offering at the high end with a new clustered version and model with a validated VMware solution Oracle Real Application Cluster (RAC).
The new ExpressPod entry-level converged infrastructure solutions target businesses with up to 500 users where the IT department may be consist of a single generalist struggling to manage the company's entire IT infrastructure, said Adam Fore, NetApp's director of solutions marketing.
"This enables us to address an entirely new customer set," Fore said.
Unlike the FlexPod converged infrastructure solution, which provides application integration with software from companies such as Oracle and SAP, cloud integration and flexible configurations, the ExpressPod comes in only two fixed configurations targeting the software needs of the typical SMB, Fore said.
"The ExpressPod is a distinctly different design from the FlexPod," he said. "The FlexPod has several features and capabilities such as advanced management and flexibility the ExpressPod doesn't. And the ExpressPod comes in only two versions. It's much simpler."
For small businesses, the ExpressPod can be configured with two Cisco UCS C220 M3 servers, a NetApp FAS2220 storage array and a Cisco Nexus 3048 switch. Midsize businesses can order a version with four Cisco UCS C220 M3 servers, a NetApp FAS2240 array and the Nexus 3048 switch.
The introduction of the ExpressPod shows just how closely Cisco and NetApp are working together to expand the market for their technologies, said Keith Norbie, vice president of Nexus, the Minnetonka, Minn., office of Stratos Management Systems, an Atlanta-based solution provider and NetApp partner.
"They're moving their technology downmarket," Norbie said. "This will mean big benefits for NetApp customers looking to move into a server-friendly environment for NetApp storage."
Whereas the FlexPod is typically targeted at VMware-centric deployments, the ExpressPod seems to be suitable for a wide range of operating environments deployed by small businesses including the Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer virtualized environments, Norbie said.
NEXT: Expanding FlexPod At The High End
"It's interesting they left the software options open, at least at first," Norbie said. "It shows there are opportunities for Cisco in Microsoft and Citrix environments. That doesn't say anything against VMware. It's just good for Cisco and its customers. Not every customer is the same. The ability to adopt to the customer's environment is good for the solution provider."
The new ExpressPod is slated to ship in the second half of November. Brian Allison, director of business development at Cisco, said the ExpressPod will be available both as a reference architecture for solution providers that prefer to do the integration of the solution at the customer site, and as fully integrated solutions through distribution partners.
At the higher end of the converged infrastructure business, NetApp and Cisco unveiled support and validation for VMware vSphere on NetApp's Data ONTAP 8 storage operating system in Cluster-Mode, a move Fore said enables storage pools to scale across multiple storage devices.
That new clustering capability also allows nondisruptive data migration of hundreds of virtual machines at a time for load balancing, system maintenance or device upgrades, he said.
"Customers will be able to move data across nodes, or off one node to another to upgrade a node," he said.
Initially, the FlexPod will be able to scale to 24 nodes with clustering, with expansions to scale to near-infinity to come over time, Fore said.
Also new is the ability to virtualize Oracle RAC databases with VMware vSphere and vCenter based on validated design and documented best practices from NetApp and Cisco, Fore said. Such support was previously available on the FlexPod for SAP, Microsoft, Citrix and VMware workloads, he said.
PUBLISHED OCT. 10, 2012
This story was updated on Oct. 12, 2012, at 9:45 a.m. PST, to clarify that the company name is Stratos Management Systems, not Stratos Management Services.