NetApp, Cisco Enhance FlexPod With Networking And Management Capabilities

Cisco and NetApp on Thursday integrated a number of their own separate storage and networking technologies into their FlexPod reference architecture offering the companies said will make FlexPod more suitable for use in cloud environments.

The enhancements are part of a strategy to continually enhance the FlexPod reference architecture, a joint project that brings NetApp's storage and Cisco's UCS server and networking technologies together in a single converged infrastructure solution, said Adam Fore, NetApp's director of solutions marketing for virtualization and cloud.

Cisco and NetApp in June signed a new three-year strategic agreement to extend the FlexPod architecture into branch offices, Fore said. "The new enhancements to FlexPod is an outcome of those initiatives," he said.

[Related: Big Data Believers: NetApp, Cisco Take FlexPod To Next Level With Hadoop ]

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It's always good to see enhancements to FlexPod, said John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems (IAS), a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and partner to both vendors.

"At this point, FlexPod is the No. 1 converged infrastructure according to IDC, Woodall said. "NetApp is making a big deal about it. It's good to be No. 1."

NetApp and Cisco have continually broadened the FlexPod architecture, Woodall said. "I would expect to see more changes going forward," he said.

NetApp and Cisco unveiled four updates to FlexPod.

The first is the implementation of NetApp's MetroCluster technology into the FlexPod Datacenter version of the converged infrastructure.

This leverages overlay transport virtualization, or OTV, to provide for synchronous connections between data centers to extend the FlexPod architecture for seamless disaster recovery, said Mark Balch, Cisco's director of product management for data center solutions and UCS.

"We took MetroCluster, overlaid it on top of OTV and our networking technology, and got a highly automated environment, which is centrally managed and deployed," Balch said.

The second enhancement is integration of Cisco Virtualized Multiservice Data Center 2.3 with FlexPod Datacenter.

For service provides serving multiple customers, or for larger enterprises that act like MSPs to their internal customers, this enhancement gives them the ability to manage multiple customers with a single management platform, Balch said.

Also new is the integration of Cisco's UCS Director 4.1, which came from Cisco's November 2012 acquisition of Cloupia.

UCS Director 4.1 provides a common console for managing compute, storage and networking resources, Balch said.

NEXT: Continually Improving FlexPod

With the enhancement, UCS Director 4.1 also now manages NetApp's Clustered Data Ontap, NetApp's Fore said.

Finally, Citrix has been added to the FlexPod Cooperative Program, Fore said.

Under that program, when a customer calls for support from any vendor in the program, the support rep has the ability to escalate support calls to any of the other vendors, giving customers the ability to get help without multiple vendors pointing the finger at each other, Fore said.

Adding Citrix to the FlexPod Cooperative Program was an important move, he said. "Citrix XenDesktop is a validated virtual desktop infrastructure environment on FlexPod," he said. "FlexPod customers also use XenServer and CloudStack."

Cisco and NetApp also said Thursday that UCS servers built on Intel's Ivy Bridge platform, as well as VMware's vSphere 5.5, are also now available for configuration into FlexPod solutions.

Each of these enhancements is not major in themselves, but they show the continuing cadence of advancements the two vendors are implementing over time, IAS's Woodall said.

"My sense is, the relationship between Cisco and NetApp will get stronger and more coordinated going forward than the relationship between Cisco and EMC," he said. "NetApp is a better friend for Cisco and offers a better road map and cloud strategy. But maybe I'm biased because I'm more close to Cisco and NetApp than I am to EMC."