Thursday, December 8, 2022

NetApp: FlexPod XCS Review

The hardware that makes up a traditional data center often consists of the solutions that provide the best value at the time of purchase. IT managers then need to bolt on these new purchases to a mix of previously purchased legacy technology.

The flexibility of generic IT products is often a strength for IT infrastructure that must perform many different tasks. However, NetApp and Cisco recognize that specialty and converged equipment designed for dedicated tasks can provide performance boosts for data centers.

FlexPod XCS delivers an integrated rack of purpose-built and optimized servers, routers, storage, and connections that works as a single unit or pod. The unified FlexPod XCS management software solution delivers workloads across a broader hybrid cloud infrastructure of internal data centers, edge devices, or cloud resources.

Although delivered as a physical rack of devices, FlexPod XCS is also billed on a consumption basis equivalent to other infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) solutions. Customers can tap the power of the cloud and pricing of the cloud — within their own data centers.

See below to learn all about NetApp FlexPod XCS and where it stands in the storage sector:

NetApp FlexPod XCS and the storage market

NetApp FlexPod XCS competes against file and object-based storage solutions in the global next-generation data storage market. This category includes physical hard drives, cloud-based storage solutions, and software-defined storage solutions.

In 2019, Grand View Research’s revenue estimate for the global next-generation data storage market reached $53.1 billion dollars and projected a $118.22 billion market by 2025 thanks to a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.5%. A slightly higher projection came from KBV Research’s 2019 analysis with a CAGR of 12.9% and a 2024 market size of $106.3 billion.

NetApp has various competitors in this market: including Dell Technologie; Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE); Hitachi Vantara; IBM; Inspur; Micron Technology; Netgear; Pure Storage; and Western Digital.

This product would be included in their $1.56 billion of Q4 2022 revenue for their hybrid cloud business segment. Additionally, FlexPod XCS can also be considered to be competing within the software-defined storage (SDS) market.

Markets and Markets estimated that the software-defined storage market would reach revenues of $4.72 billion in 2016 and hit $22.56 billion by 2021 thanks to an aggressive CAGR of 36.7%. The market failed to reach those optimistic estimates, but Maximize Market Research’s 2021 estimates still forecast a healthy $12.92 billion market, a 25.8% CAGR, and a $51.21 billion market size by 2027.

NetApp has many competitors in the software-defined storage market: including Citrix; Dell Technologies; FalconStor Software; Fujitsu; Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE); IBM; Microsoft; OpenText; Oracle; Seagate; StarWind Software; and VMware.

NetApp FlexPod XCS key features

  • IaaS converged solution powered by Cisco Intersight cloud operations platform, NetApp ONTAP data fabric, Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS), Cisco Nexus/MDS, VMware virtualization, and Cisco fabric interconnects
  • Natively integrated with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure
  • Direct connectivity to Cisco Technical Assistance Center (Cisco TAC)
  • Robust cloud management
    • Workloads span and optimize across edge, on-premises, and cloud deployment
    • Full-stack visibility
    • Drag-and-drop user interface (UI)
    • Integrates with NetApp’s cloud file services
    • Server, network, and storage resource elasticity
      • Add and remove servers or storage automatically
      • Deploys containers as a service (aaS) on bare metal or in the cloud
      • Persistent storage on NetApp storage volumes
      • Deploy infrastructure as code
    • Virtualization clusters with automated compatibility checks for server, firmware and hypervisor version compatibility
  • High-performance computing
    • End-to-end automation, management, and integration of compute, storage, and network
    • High-performance shared storage for file and block workloads
    • Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) guidance to maximize performance and minimize costs
  • Integrated security and compliance
    • Extend data center networks into the cloud through secure OSI Layer 2 connections
    • Common policy abstraction, governance, and deployment
    • Business continuity and disaster recovery built-in
    • Encrypted data by default
  • Incorporates NetApp cloud capabilities such as Cloud Volumes ONTAP, Cloud Sync, Cloud Tiering, and Cloud Backup
  • Available as a service, or service providers can provide it as a solution for their customer’s cloud deployment needs

NetApp FlexPod XCS key benefits

When purchasing a solution similar to the FlexPod XCS, IT managers see to enjoy key benefits such as:

Simplified management

Juggling the deployment of applications and workloads across a hybrid environment of edge computing, data centers, and cloud resources takes a lot of time, effort, and a variety of software management solutions. With the added complexity comes the risk of security gaps and other mistakes. Adopting an integrated solution such as FlexPod XCS simplifies data center management with a single software solution to manage all data center and cloud resources.

Flexible workload deployment

Adopting solutions such as FlexPod XCS enables quick adaptations to the unpredictable needs of hybrid-cloud applications through virtualized, containerized, or bare metal workloads. Using the FlexPod management software, workloads, data, and storage can be spread across resources or routed to specific data centers automatically.

Improve cash flow

IaaS licensing for FlexPod XCS provides a flexible consumption model that does not tie up cash flow with capital expenses (CapEx). Customers pay as they go based on the actual resources consumed.

Rapid deployment

Creating a do-it-yourself (DIY) hybrid environment requires each data center to be configured and connected separately and then tested to ensure proper security is in place. The delivery of a FlexPod XCS server rack and the accompanying software allows for a much faster launch and configuration of a robust hybrid environment.

NetApp FlexPod XCS use cases

Conscia Netherlands

In addition to providing direct benefits, adopting FlexPod XCS can help managed IT service providers deliver value to their customers. Conscia Netherlands provides several as-a-service solutions to their customers and relies upon FlexPod XCS to manage the workloads.

“We as Conscia, we also use it as for ourselves underneath our aaS solution that we deliver as a cloud service provider. And then you have the NetApp and Cisco products in the public clouds. Right, these new technologies that Cisco and NetApp are developing, really and the ecosystem around it, really makes it a hybrid cloud solution,” declared Jeffrey den Oudsten, CTO at Conscia Netherlands.

TasNetworks

When the Tasmanian government merged two large electricity supply organizations in 2014, they knew they needed to adopt new solutions to replace the incompatible legacy infrastructure and disjointed platforms for payroll, HR and operations.

“We saw huge benefit in consolidating these diverse applications into one platform that would give everyone a single way of working,” said Michael Westenberg, general manager of technology and performance at TasNetworks.

Using FlexPod XCS and SAP HANA, TasNetworks created a virtual environment with radically reduced complexity, maintenance time, and downtime.

“NetApp storage efficiencies have enabled us to realize performance and availability improvements, while delivering a 75% reduction in data center footprint,” Westenberg noted.

Zurich University of Applied Sciences

To adequately service the IT needs for eight departments in three locations, the IT teams of the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) needed to consolidate, converge, and modernize their hybrid environment. The team selected FlexPod XCS, Flash Cache, and other NetApp solutions to simplify their management and improve uptime.

The resulting architecture created an 85% performance boost, improved response time, and provided unexpected flexibility.

“What impresses me most is the ability to seamlessly migrate data within the cluster itself. To my knowledge, this is a first,“ explained Thomas Elz, system engineer for servers and systems at ZHAW. “FlexPod is easy to administer — everything is fully integrated, and it offers extensive automation. And having just one architecture means we’re saving additional time and money.”

NetApp FlexPod XCS differentiators

When customers purchase NetApp’s FlexPod XCS, they do so because of the following differentiators.

Automated application infrastructure deployment

Using the management software of the NetApp FlexPod XCS solution provides IT managers with the ability to design a workflow for the life of an application. From deployment through decommissioning, the management software navigates ebbs and flows in demand through automated control of virtual machines, containers, and bare metal resources.

Intelligent automation

NetApp FlexPod XCS helps customers to launch quickly with 200+ reference architectures to guide initial deployment. Ongoing performance is maximized, and costs are minimized through end-to-end automation with built-in guidance from AI/ML algorithms.

Built-in tools

NetApp FlexPod XCS combines the capabilities of many different industry-leading NetApp tools, including Cloud Volumes ONTAP, Cloud Sync, Cloud Tiering, Cloud Backup, and ONTAP Data Fabric.

Trusted support

NetApp FlexPod integrates cutting edge NetApp and Cisco technology that is well understood and well trusted throughout the industry. FlexPod is also backed by an extensive NetApp partner network, NetApp support, and direct connections to the Cisco Technical Assistance Center (Cisco TAC).

User reviews of NetApp FlexPod XCS

Review site Rating
Gartner Peer Insights 4.4 out of 5
TrustRadius 9.4 out of 10
G2 4.0 out of 5
PeerSpot 4.4 out of 5

NetApp FlexPod XCS pricing

NetApp does not publish pricing for their FlexPod XCS. Potential customers are encouraged to seek a price quote from their partner network.

While partners do not often publish prices, some price lists can be located on the internet that show some FlexPod solutions. These price lists show low prices for the FlexPod solution as would be expected for a consumption based IaaS solution; however, the pricing also suggests potential additional costs for different levels of product support.

Resellers typically publish only list prices, so volume discounts will probably be available for most enterprise customers. The final price will also vary depending upon the type of hardware deployed and options required, so potential customers should obtain price quotes that include projections of future needs for various IaaS scenarios.

Conclusions

Managing complex hybrid environments requires excellent visibility and coordination to avoid operations, compliance, or security mishaps. Companies seeking to simplify their operations and improve their control should consider and test the NetApp FlexPod XCS solution.

Backed by Cisco and NetApp technologies, the on-site FlexPod solution provides an efficient and effective integrated solution for local data centers and comes with a powerful management software that encompasses cloud and edge resources as well.

The all-in-one solution automates deployment and uses AI guidance to ensure quick, responsive, and effective workload deployment. Even though it delivers as an installable rack of equipment for locally-controlled data centers, NetApp only charges for the solution on a consumption basis to provide cloud flexibility and pricing.

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