Overall Satisfaction with FlexPod
We utilize FlexPod with VMware for both virtual and physical hosts in our data center. Our primary usage is a private cloud offering via the VMware hosts. My team sells back hosting services to other departments within the company, allowing them to get 24/7 support and hosting without having to pay for IT staff out of their own budgets, while ensuring that the support team, being members of the same company, have a vested interest in providing up time and service that an external provider might not have.
- Service profile portability - Utilizing san boot, if we have any issues with a physical blade, it is simple to move that Service profile to a new blade. This is also useful when moving chassis between racks or migrating service profiles to new hardware.
- Single point of management - we are able to get all VLANs and VSANs trunked to the FlexPod fabric interconnects and then the server etam can handle mapping whatever VLANs are required to each new server as it is built without having to open a new set of tickets with networking.
- Performance - We are able to run a massive virtual load on these blades as we have 256 cores and 6TB in 6RU in our current configuration (and can go up to 352 cores and 12TB with larger processors and DIMMs). This type of CPU and memory density, backed up by 40GB based backplane, allows for high density virtualization.
- KVM control of the blades still requires Java. Avocent is using HTML5 now, and it would be nice if the KVM console for these UCS blades could too.
- Price - Like any Cisco product, there are cheaper options. They aren't nearly as fully featured, but at times, it would be nice if UCS could be a bit cheaper.
- FlexPod has allowed our team to be extremely quick to resopnd to new VM build requests. The amount of RAM, CPU and backplane offered by B series blades allows us to go with very high VM density. The quick deployment of service profile templates also means that when we have to add new hosts, it is done quicker.
- FlexPod and the service profile portability (along with VMware) has allowed for full upgrades and migrations from M1/M2 series hardware to M4 hardware without any downtime or outages to the clients. Blades can be moved into new chassis, or service profiles moved to new generation blades, with no impact to the customers' ability to work.
- Smartstack, vBlock and Flashstack
I have made use of Smartstack, vBlock and Flashstack, as well as other mixes of storage and virtualization hosts, and FlexPod is probably still my favorite. While something like a Nimble Smartstack or Pure Flashstack is easier to maintain, I love the in depth information and control that a SAN such as Netapp offers us. There is more knowledge and skill required to manage it, but the maturity of the product helps make up for that.
FlexPod is great for mid to large size companies, where the flexibility and depth of a traditional SAN and high performance servers is required. For smaller companies, it might make more sense to go with a hyper converged solution such as Hyperflex or Nutanix (both of which can still run on Cisco UCS servers, but would not be making use of Netapp storage), to meet the requirements in a smaller footprint.