One of the promises of converged infrastructure is that it simplifies the acquisition of server, storage and networking technologies inside a single product. The tradeoff, however, has been that the only way to scale out additional capacity has been to buy entire sets of integrated systems. In theory, that approach can work, but in reality the demands for additional compute and storage capacity or network bandwidth never uniformly increase at the same time.
To give customers a more modular approach to converged infrastructure, NetApp partnered with Cisco to create the FlexPod portfolio of integrated servers. More loosely coupled then rival integrated systems, the FlexPod series combines NetApp storage with Cisco Unified Compute System (UCS) and 10G Ethernet Nexus switches.
This week, the two companies announced an expansion of the FlexPod alliance that adds the latest NetApp E-Series storage systems and Cisco Nexus switches to the FlexPod lineup along with a distribution of Hadoop from Cloudera on the highest-end member of the FlexPod series.
According to Brendon Howe, vice president of product and solutions marketing for NetApp, the FlexPod series brings the benefits of lower cost of acquisition and increased manageability to IT organizations without constraining how those systems can scale out over time.
As part of an effort to make it easier to acquire those systems, the two companies also announced this week that they are unifying the financing they make available to customers looking to deploy FlexPod systems.
NetApp claims to have 2,400 customers using FlexPod systems, which would put it fairly even with EMC in terms of the number of Cisco UCS systems that have storage attached to them from EMC. In addition to EMC, of course, integrated server competition based on converged architectures comes from IBM, HP, Dell and Hitachi Data Systems. Cisco has made a name for itself in the server space thanks to the jump on rivals that it gained with Cisco UCS. The degree to which Cisco can consolidate and expand those gains remains to be seen. But as the server market evolves, it’s pretty clear that customers are looking for systems that provide lower costs and simplified manageability without compromising any of the flexibility they need to scale out those investments over time.