New FlexPod Announcement

This week Cisco and NetApp jointly announced a new FlexPod offering for small/medium-sized businesses and could possibly be used for remote sites for scaled out applications. They have also validated a few management tools to make it easier to administer, maintain, and automate FlexPod environments.

Entry Level Pod

The entry level FlexPod now incorporates the NetApp FAS2240 Series Controllers, Cisco UCS C-Series Rack servers, 6200 Series Fabric Interconnects, Nexus 5000 switches, and Nexus 2232 Fabric Extenders.  While I think there has been a need for an entry level pod, I question all of the required components:

NetApp FAS2240

While the FAS2240 is an excellent entry level box you are unfortunately left with a ‘one or the other’ protocol approach – either you get native Fiber Channel or you get 10Gb file protocols – the mezzanine card is not a unified adapter.  Maybe this is a push for NFS data stores for VMware environments – however in a UCS environment that leaves you either local boot or iSCSI boot from SAN for your hypervisor.

Besides the protocol issue – the FAS2240 does give you a lot of scalability options including being used as a disk shelf in a 3K series if you happen to outgrow it.

Cisco Components

From a server perspective the rack C series will be utilized for the compute portion of FlexPod.  Obviously the P81E Virtual Interface Card (VIC) will need to be utilized with the Nexus 2232 Fabric Extender.  As of the current release the 10Gb ports from the P81E and the 1Gb onboard LOM ports will both need to be connected to the Nexus 2232 forcing you to burn 10Gb ports for 1Gb connectivity – in a future release the IMC traffic will flow in band on the P81E and remove the requirement for the 1Gb ports.

Fabric Interconnects (6200) series are included in the environment for management of the C Series Servers, Nexus 2232, and VIC P81E which helps with the management of the server configuration such as RAID, boot order and most other things we get in a B Series environment.

Nexus 5Ks will be utilized as the core of the pod for 10Gb connectivity other possible termination points such as Fiber Channel.

Summary

So while I agree there needed to be an entry level FlexPod – there are still a lot of unknowns seeing as how there have not been any updated Design Guides or Deployment Guides for the new pod:

  • What configurations for the FAS2240 will be supported – native Fiber Channel or only 10Gb Ethernet (NFS/CIFS/iSCSI)…both?
  • How cost effective will the solution be?  It has been my experience that when including the Fabric Interconnects into a C series environment the cost of a B series environment tends to beat it out – perhaps the the price break for the FAS2240 vs the 3200 series will help with the price delta?
  • Now that the FAS2240 has been approved in the entry level will it also be supported in the prior FlexPod architectures and allow us for deployments where B series is preferred but may not require a FAS3200 Series?

I guess I am off to run some pricing exercises!

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