NetApp, Cisco Intro Entry-Level FlexPod Reference Architecture

NetApp and Cisco expanded their FlexPod converged infrastructure reference architecture with the addition of a new entry-level version targeting midsize and larger enterprises with relatively small workloads.

The new reference architecture is based around NetApp's FAS2240 storage appliance that the company introduced in November.

FlexPod is not a product, but is instead an architecture that provides a large degree of flexibility in configuring storage solutions based on NetApp storage and Cisco networking and UCS server technology.

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FlexPod is a series of pre-validated configurations based on various NetApp storage appliances, and it can be modified by solution providers to meet customer requirements.

The newest version of FlexPod, based on the FAS2240, is targeting smaller workloads than previous versions, but it is not for small business users, said Todd Palmer, vice president for Americas channel sales at NetApp.

"It's not for SMBs," Palmer said. "It's for smaller workloads, such as for a department in a larger company."

The new FlexPod is targeted at business applications with between 500 and 1,000 users, and scales via additional capacity as customers' business needs change, said Brian Allison, director of go-to-market data center solutions at Cisco.

It combines the FAS2240 with Cisco UCS C-Series blade servers, Cisco Nexus 5000 switches, Cisco Nexus 2232 Fabric Extender, and Cisco UCS 6200 Series Fabric Interconnects.

The FAS2240-2 expands to up to 374 TBs in a 2U rack mount enclosure with eight Gbit Ethernet ports and four 6-Gbps SATA ports. It also supports an additional I/O card which offers either four 8-Gbps Fibre Channel or four 10-Gbps Ethernet ports.

It is the first FlexPod to include iSCSI boot across the servers and storage, Allison said. "Others use SAN boot," he said. "iSCSI boot is more applicable for this part of the market."

The new FlexPod includes help from strategic partners for customers looking to use it as a stepping stone towards cloud computing, Allison said.

This includes Cisco, which is including its Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud, a self-service provisioning and orchestration software solution for cloud computing and data center automation that provides automated IT operations for both virtual and physical infrastructure across compute, network, storage, and applications.

NetApp and Cisco are also working with ISVs who provide automated workflows to help mid-sized and small enterprise customers build clouds, including CA, Cloupia, and Gale Technologies, he said.

Next: Working With The Channel

Currently, over 500 solution providers are supporting about 850 customers worldwide in deploying FlexPod solutions, Palmer said.

Advanced Systems Group has found FlexPod to be a great way to help customers move to the cloud, especially after FlexPod was recently expanded to include Microsoft Hyper-V in addition to VMware for the virtualization layer, said Mark Teter, CTO of the Denver-based solution provider.

"FlexPod is not really a product, but instead is a reference architecture for configuring solutions," Teter said. "We really want to ramp up with FlexPod to help customers transition to cloud-based infrastructures."

The addition of a FlexPod architecture based on the FAS2240 will help grow Advanced Systems Group's customer base, Teter said.

"This move expands the customer base for converged IT infrastructures," he said. "A big part of our customer base doesn't have the capacity needs of an enterprise, but still wants the benefits of a converged infrastructure."