Real-World Clouds Built on Cisco and NetApp

Feeling inspired by a conversation over lunch on day 1 of Cisco Live with Walz Group Chief Information Security Officer Bart Falzarano. In just 20 minutes Bart outlined not just his company’s architecture today but their decision process for and logic behind evolution to cloud. Our conversation started with a discussion about how a couple years ago exponential growth – combined with consistent failures on key platforms running on bare metal – started having a significant impact this was having on his data center operations. Although he’d started virtualization, there was a clear need to standardize, drive down costs, and fix platforms supporting apps on bare metal.

The solution: FlexPod based on Cisco UCS, Cisco Nexus and NetApp storage.


Bart introduced a great new term that I immediately decided to adopt: technology debt. Once Walz moved from the older, legacy server and storage technology that was failing to deliver to the current needs of his business he found that the benefits weren’t just incremental gains. Instead, the company achieved a complete paradigm shift with failures dropping from once every few months to 1x per year, and from an RTO of ~12 hrs to ~10 minutes for bare metal recoveries.


We believe there are 7 key building blocks to achieving a real world cloud environment.

Step 1: Build on a Proven Validated Architectures

FlexPod provides a validated architecture designed to ensure the availability, mobility, and performance of applications while delivering cost reductions to the IT department.

In addition to the hardware components, our engineering teams have tested and published validated designs for the virtualization of leading enterprise applications and meeting the security and compliance requirements of specific industries.

The collective whole of our validated architectures ensures FlexPod customers receive a best in class architecture for their cloud-computing environment.

Step 2: Reduce Cost by Reducing Infrastructure

FlexPod is the only validated architecture in the industry designed around datacenter Ethernet and running production data deduplicated storage. Both technologies reduce the physical hardware required to serve the infrastructure and in turn drive down costs.

While some view data deduplication as an area of potential performance issues, you need to realize that with NetApp’s dedupe aware cache it actually increases the I/O throughput by reducing the call to the disk subsystem. This I/O optimization is very similar to technologies like Cisco WAAS or VMware Transparent Page Sharing.

  • Visit NetApp booth #939 here at Cisco Live for a live demo to see how NetApp products allow customers to save up to 50% in storage saving by deploying dedupe, compression, and thin provisioning

Step 3: Stop Configuring Physical Devices

With FlexPod we provided means to configure their environment to via software addresses instead of hardware addresses. With technologies like Cisco UCS Service Profiles, Nexus Virtual Device Contexts, and NetApp vFilers, customers can configure their environment once. This means as changes occur at the hardware layer, in cases such as asset depreciation, failure, upgrades, etc, configuration settings such as device access, security policies, data replication and storage efficiencies are simply migrated from one hardware device to another.

  • Lab BRKDCT-2121 titled, Virtual Device Context (VDC) Design and Implementation Considerations will be presented on Wednesday from 12:30 – 2:30 at Cisco Live

Step 4: Unify Architectures

Only FlexPod delivers the identical set of management tools, capabilities, and functionalities such as API integration with partners like VMware, Citrix, SAP, Microsoft, etc. across FlexPod.

Unified architectures provide consistency in solution design and management. This model allows IT departments to focus on delivery services versus unforeseen gotchas. Applications tested on one-size FlexPod function identically when deployed on one of a different size.

At Cisco Live, NetApp booth #939 includes a variety of live demos including virtual desktops and secure multitenancy. You can also check out demos in partner booths including:

  • Enhanced Secure Multi Tenancy on FlexPod (Cisco Data Center section of Cisco Booth #1439)
  • VXI/Desktop Virtualization (XenDesktop) and Cisco UC on FlexPod hosted by MTM Technologies live using a FlexPod in their Boston lab (Wyse booth #1139)

Step 5: Automate and Orchestrate

FlexPod provides an OpenAPI for partner integrations that provides FlexPod customers with the broadest offering of automation and orchestration tools in the industry. In the example of Walz Group, Bart was thrilled to see dramatic improvements just getting down to three tools for his server, virtualization and storage environment even before implementing an advanced systems management tool.

Have a systems management tool in house? It likely supports FlexPod! Don’t have an app in house? Allow us to show you what we can provide with offerings.

  • NetApp booth #939 includes demos on management for Cisco & NetApp environments via Cloupia and the Cisco Automation Cloud Portal (formerly newScale & Tidal). You can also check out great demos in the Cloupia and Cisco booths plus online with Cloupia and newScale

Step 6: Insure Service Levels

Finding the root cause to a performance issue in shared, virtual infrastructures can sometimes be rather difficult. Where does one look? At the storage or network layer, what about the hypervisor or guest OS? Frankly, it can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

NetApp OnCommand Insight gives FlexPod customers the ability to proactively optimize resources and workloads, measure IT costs and efficiencies, while gaining infrastructure transparency and the ability to ensure performance.

  • Visit NetApp booth #939 – seeing a trend here? – to see how NetApp’s Virtual Storage Console can provide integrated, comprehensive storage management for your VMware infrastructure , including discovery, health monitoring, capacity management, provisioning, cloning, backup, restore, and disaster recovery

Step 7: Make it Turn-Key Simple
Our partners can provide all of the services required for adopting and implementing a FlexPod architecture from initial assessment and sizing, all the way through to migration and training.

For customers who are looking to wholly adopt an OPEX cost model for IT services, we can recommend one of the service providers that provide cloud-computing services based on FlexPod. Whether your needs are basic computing, messaging and collaborative, or ERP services; we can help you find a service provider that is right for you.

  • Visit WWT booth #1971 at Cisco Live to check out a VXI/Desktop Virtualization demo and talk to the WWT team about running VXI and other workloads on FlexPod


Wrapping Up This Post

As you can see, it takes more than a collection of hardware and software to deploy a successful cloud infrastructure. With FlexPod, Cisco and NetApp and our partners have made major investments to deliver on the promises of cloud computing; deliver applications quicker, increase availability, and simultaneously ensure high performance while reducing Cap-Ex and Op-Ex.

While there are many cloud-infrastructure stacks on the market, FlexPod remains truly unique. Our vision to provide value in a consistent fashion regardless of quantity of hardware is providing the infrastructure requirements that help customers adopt cloud computing, be it in–house or via our service providers.

The official NetApp at CiscoLive site highlights Cisco & NetApp speaking sessions, demos in the NetA pp, Cisco and Wyse booths, our prize patrol and much more. We’re regularly updating our ‘Who to Follow for FlexPod at CiscoLive‘ list plus you can find the latest blog posts, pictures and updates on the FlexPod FaceBook page.

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