FlexPod: The shared infrastructure solution devised by Cisco, NetApp and VMware

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 | Tom Kirk

Cisco and NetApp have announced plans to accelerate the market momentum of the FlexPod converged infrastructure solution. FlexPod has now been taken up by 1,000 customers globally and the adoption rate has grown by around 400 percent in the nine months to April.

In late 2010 Cisco, NetApp and VMware teamed up to create FlexPod, a prevalidated data centre solution arranged around a flexible, shared infrastructure. The system takes Cisco’s networking know-how and its Unified Computing System and pairs it with VMware’s vSphere hypervisor technology.

The 451 research group has said that FlexPod and other converged IT infrastructure offer a gateway into the cloud for businesses, making the transition easier to manage and highlighting the collaboration behind the product as a key to its success. 451 said, "Datacenter customers are increasingly asking for greater vendor collaboration across the suppliers of their key infrastructure elements – server, network and storage – to help them achieve the holy grail of the virtualized dynamic datacenter.”

That Cisco, NetApp and VMware set up FlexPod two years ago set them ahead of the curve and with uptake having rocketed by 400% in less than a year it is clear to see that the market has responded very positively to this collaboration. One of the advantages of the founding partnership is that allows for quicker uptake of new solutions developed by both Cisco and VMware; giving users access to the latest storage technologies as soon as they become available.

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FlexPod is currently being used by firms wanting a prescribed solution, but who need more flexibility than would be offered by a prepackaged product. The architecture can be used across a number of areas, including delivering cost effectiveness for desktop virtualisation, improving support for secure use of private clouds by multiple users, and also enhancing the mobile and branch office user experience for Microsoft SharePoint2010.

In 2011 the system was implemented at Loughborough University by Logicalis to create the UK’s first hybrid FlexPod. Phil Richards, director of IT at Loughborough University, said, "We now have a unified architecture on which to provide a growing range of media-rich services, with the flexibility to choose between local delivery and cloud-based options. Furthermore, our time-to-market for spinning up research resources is now measured in hours rather than months. Each new such application adds further value and leverages our investment in the underlying platform.”

The University says the new system has enabled it to reduce expenditure on building new storage facilities, as well as the power usage associated with running such systems on-site; claiming savings of over £2m in combined costs. With the university moving increasingly towards students bringing their own machines to work on, the system has also enabled security to be maintained. Matthew Cook, Head of Infrastructure and Telephony, says: "In such situations security is crucial. Networks are being opened up more and more, for example, by the trend towards bring-your-own-device. In fact, higher education has been exposed to that for some time, but it’s relatively new in the corporate world.”

The experience at Loughborough University shows the extent of the market, both for large institutions such as universities and the potential within the corporate world. With workers increasingly seeking to use a range of devices while in the office, from smart phones to tablets and PCs; this new trend within the corporate environment could be the driving force behind further uptake of these systems globally.

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