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FlexPod Adapts and Thrives in a Decade of Constant Change

Bruno Messina
Bruno Messina

In 2010, FlexPod® began as an idea for combining the best of breed products from Cisco and NetApp to address certain applications and workloads in a converged infrastructure solution. Fast-forward to the present day, and FlexPod has evolved to serve over 9,500 cumulative customers and $12 billion in worldwide sales. In 2020, FlexPod celebrates its tenth year—a long time in the technology industry.

Taking a quick look back at some technologies from 2010 and 2011, we get a sense of how much the world has changed over the last 10 years:

  • iPhone 4 and iPad were announced.
  • Microsoft Office 2010 was released.
  • Taxis and bookstores still had large market shares.
  • Amazon issued a press release that it was selling more Kindle than hardcover books.
  • Natural language processing was introduced in Apple Siri.
  • Mark Zuckerberg was named TIME Person of the Year for 2010.

In the last decade (2010 to 2020), servers, storage, networking, and IT infrastructure have seen similar change and market transitions, including:

  • Public cloud market increasing from $77 to $266 billion
  • Software-defined networking
  • Rise of virtualization
  • SATA to SAS to SSD to NVMe
  • 1GbE to 10GbE to 40GbE to 100GbE
  • 6- and 4-core Xeon processors increasing to 56 cores
  • Rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) as a large workload that is likely to touch all major data center applications
  • Many, many more…

Interestingly, FlexPod has thrived throughout this decade of nearly constant change in the underlying IT industry.  The natural question arises: How did FlexPod achieve both this endurance and success in an ever-changing landscape?

The answer lies in a few main areas:

Foundational Commitment to FlexPod from Both Cisco and NetApp

Throughout this last decade, Cisco and NetApp have maintained an unwavering commitment to FlexPod. Both companies continually demonstrate this commitment by doing extensive testing and validation of real applications on FlexPod compute (Cisco UCS Servers), network (Cisco Nexus switches) and storage (NetApp® storage arrays). Once testing finishes, end-to-end guidance is provided in CVDs (Cisco Validated Designs) and NetApp Verified Architectures (NVAs). CVDs and NVAs are IT cookbooks or blueprints that reduce risk, increase security, deliver end-to-end availability, and help you get your workload up and running without worrying about how to set up your infrastructure.  Additionally, FlexPod TRs and whitepapers focus on specific use-cases for example clinical applications like EHR and Medical Imaging (PACS/VNA) in the healthcare space. These documents offer validations, deployment best-practices, sizing guidance or describe newer use cases where customers can benefit from FlexPod.

FlexPod is a Cisco and Netapp solution. Throughout this last decade mainstream data center workloads have been verified and documented as they change and evolve to embrace new technologies (like end-to-end NVMe) and innovations.  For example, if a there is a new release of SQL Server or vSphere, FlexPod thoroughly tests this changes and updates.  As your applications are evolve, FlexPod evolves.  The result is a complete and expanding portfolio of data center solutions that is continually updating and adding new workloads like AI/ML, picture archiving and communication systems (PACS), electronic health records (EHRs), and imaging. If you’re a customer, your workloads have likely been tested and retested (VMware, SAP, Oracle, SQL Server) or newly added (AI/ML, EHR, DevOps, imaging) or will be added in the future.

Differentiated, Operational Consistency

Operational consistency ensures you can easily scale, change, monitor, integrate, and orchestrate their FlexPod infrastructure. FlexPod was an innovator in abstracting its hardware in software and allowing end-to-end orchestration with Cisco UCS Director or other third-party products. Tasks that were previously time consuming and error prone are now accomplished in software—for example:

  • Provisioning a new server
  • Repurposing storage
  • Adding new firmware to storage
  • Moving to a new and updated FlexPod infrastructure
  • Adding new resources

This list of automated tasks is nearly endless. You benefit because previously error-prone, labor-intensive tasks are now completely automated in software, lowering costs, easing transitions, and increasing quality for IT end customers.

Endurance of the Original Differential Value of FlexPod

The differential value of FlexPod remains true to its original purpose:

  • Added value of an enormous reservoir of partner FlexPod expertise
  • Singe point of contact solution support for the entire FlexPod stack
  • Hybrid cloud delivered through a data fabric powered by NetApp ONTAP® software and management with Cisco CloudCenter
  • Rated the #1 most trusted converged infrastructure stack by IT Central Station
  • Diversified set of over 170 solutions with Cisco CVDs and NetApp NVAs
  • Continued addition of new solutions, innovations, and technologies (like end-to-end NVMe)

Because customers throughout the world have experienced this value, FlexPod has earned the #1 most trusted distinction at IT Central Station.

FlexPod is a converged infrastructure solution rated #1 at IT Central Station. To illustrate this differentiated advantage, a recent IDC survey of FlexPod customers found numerous benefits that accrued to IT clients of all sizes.  These survey benefits are proof from FlexPod customers of its unique overall value proposition and business value, including:

  • 65% more time spent on innovation and new projects
  • 61% improvement in application performance
  • 60% decrease in number of unplanned downtime incidents
  • 34% decrease in data center floor space
  • 29% reduction in power and cooling
  • 24% saved in software capex

Cisco and NetApp Use FlexPod for Their Internal IT Operations

Cisco and NetApp both demonstrate their commitment and support for FlexPod by running large parts of their own internal IT infrastructures on FlexPod. Cisco has also run the last five Cisco Live events (both Americans and EMEAR) on a FlexPod infrastructure. In other words, both Cisco and NetApp eat and depend on their own “IT cooking.”

Imagine 5 or 10 years from now: Won’t your end customers be better served if you choose FlexPod for your IT infrastructure today?  If you would like to learn how you can become a future FlexPod customer or partner and you are attending Cisco Live EMEA 2020, stop by booth number P3 to learn more about FlexPod. If you’re already a FlexPod customer, plug into the many FlexPod activities, including three sessions presented jointly by NetApp and Cisco:

  • Session ID: PAR 1233​
Practical Applications of Hybrid Multicloud Architectures Tuesday, January 28, 1:15–1:45 p.m., Cisco Theater ​

  • Session ID: PAR 2234​
Triple Performance with Half the Resources Using Memory-Accelerated FlexPod Tuesday, January 28, 3:30–4:10 p.m., WOS Theater

  • ​Session ID: PNLNMS-1035
Cisco Live Network and NOC: Panel Discussion Friday, January 31, 11:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m.

To learn more, please visit:

Bruno Messina

Bruno Messina joined NetApp in 2018 and works in product marketing for FlexPod. His previous experience includes a career in product marketing of UCS servers for Cisco Systems and Solaris server marketing and competitive analysis at both Oracle and Sun Microsystems, where he joined in 2000. Bruno spent ten years in various roles of competitive analysis and product management at Sun Microsystems, leading analysis in both the workgroup and enterprise servers. Prior to Sun Microsystems, Bruno spent time finishing his MBA education and worked for two years at Cadence working on product marketing for both board-level and board timing tools. Bruno holds both a BSEE and MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.

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