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This is a guest blog post from John Woodall, Vice President of Engineering at Integrated Archive Systems, Cisco Premier and NetApp Star partner. John has more than 21 years of experience in the information technology industry. He joined IAS in 2002 as Sr. Infrastructure Architect and brings an extensive background in enterprise architecture, infrastructure, system design and large-scale, complex systems implementation. Recently, John was promoted to Vice President of Engineering, responsible for pre-sales technical architecture and professional services. Prior to joining IAS, John held architecture and management roles at Symantec, Solectron (now Flextronics), Madge Networks, and Elsevier MDL.

This is not supposed to be a blog per se on the cloud; we don’t need more of THAT!  The journey to the cloud, an overused and tired message in my opinion, is now more akin to transporter technology in Star Trek: You choose where to go and you can be there in a moment.  In a similar manner, choosing to put the cloud in your data center is something you and your customers can do now, no more journey to figure out.

Just do it. It really is that easy, a choice. The technology is mature. The tools work. The choice is yours…when the time is right for you and your customers.  This week, that timing just got better for a whole new set of organizations and customers with the announcement of Cisco and NetApp’s entry-level FlexPods.

The inevitability of the cloud, the relentless juggernaut of change in the data center, has been and is continuing to impact all of us in the industry--customers, suppliers, resellers, providers--none of us escapes the Borg-like assimilation that we face.

The challenge has been: how to do it and how much will it cost? How in the world can a data center be transformed?  How can our businesses derive the benefits and mitigate the risk of change? 

The good news is that the industry has taken note and taken advantage of this change and as a result we have seen the emergence of unified compute stacks, engineered systems, and data center in a rack marketing campaigns.  The messaging is working and, more importantly, Cisco and NetApp have over the past year-plus gone to market with a game-changing and very successful offering: FlexPod. The offering is built on proven technology from Cisco and NetApp.

FlexPod IS the cloud--a private, purpose-built cloud. FlexPod delivers business standardization, efficiency, elasticity, and ease of management. It does so without the inherent risks of building your own cloud architecture or stack.  It does not solve world hunger nor is it a panacea, but it does bring to the data center improved operational efficiency and increased economic benefits, all in a single, validated and proven architecture.

What truly sets FlexPod apart is that the architecture does indeed scale seamlessly; it retains all of its attributes when new technology comes along, during refresh cycles and upgrades.

Today, a new FlexPod offering makes this available at a lower entry price.  The new offering folds into the FlexPod universe Cisco C-series rack mount servers and NetApp FAS2240 storage arrays. All of the other FlexPod components (UCS Manager, fabric interconnects, Nexus fabric, and blade servers) remain the same. Data OnTAP and OnCommand are still the same. It all works together, like it always has.  For those of you fortunate enough to have deployed Cloupia, Orchestration and Management for FlexPod is easier than ever.

It is easy to say that seamless scalability is a key differentiator for FlexPod.  It is harder to deliver on this statement and no other unified compute stack can say that with credibility. Period. The architecture does not break when a new server comes along or a new storage array is introduced.  It works no matter what Hypervisor you choose to deploy. No forklift upgrades are needed, just scale up or down and continue on.  No data migrations.  No rip and replace when you scale. Data OnTAP stays the same, UCS Manager stays the same…

If you really want to see a completely disruptive application of FlexPod technology we should really discuss how Data OnTAP 8 in Cluster Mode facilitates non-stop operations, but that would be a topic for another blog.

Operationally, data protection and replication methods stay the same, disaster recovery does not change.  Operational procedures and run books do not change. Just start small and scale. No need to waste time retraining staff on new tools, no changes in the management paradigm, no matter what size FlexPod you deploy or how many.  That is how a cloud should work.

The cloud is more accessible today than ever before.  It’s called FlexPod.

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