ISN technical expert explores FlexPod and what it can do for oil and gas
In June I attended the NetApp Partner Academy. ISN had heard a lot about some interesting technology from NetApp, Cisco and VMware called FlexPod and I was tasked with investigating further on behalf of the company.
For anyone not familiar with FlexPod, it’s essentially a pre-integrated compute platform consisting of blade server (the latest Unified Computing from Cisco), virtualisation software (VMware) storage (NetApp) and networking (again Cisco). Apparently it offers some impressive scalability and I wanted to see the technology in action first-hand.
I joined various sessions looking at different elements of the solution and was struck by the simplicity of the solution. For IT departments looking at dramatically cutting down on the management overheads for systems, this is a great candidate – highly automated, the solution is largely self-managing and, in the majority of cases, will detect potential problems before those using it.
Similarly, the pre-integrated nature of the solution does away with many of the ‘points of failure’ attached to traditional systems – fewer network connections, no more difficult cable infrastructure, scalable storage across a common platform and the ability to flexibly move workloads generally means less to go wrong – something I think IT administrators and managers alike will be glad of! Maintaining and upgrading systems is really straightforward too being based on a blade-chassis architecture as workloads can be moved from one blade to the next and then swapped for greater memory or CPU capacity, providing lots of flexibility.
For anyone looking at an alternative virtualisation platform the solution can be interchanged with Citrix also. I was particularly impressed with the fact that Cisco, who is still relatively new to server based computing has created a dedicated XenDesktop blade loaded with 0.5 TB of memory – which is far greater than anything else on the market and enables large numbers of VMs (literally 100s) to be managed on a single host. ISN has helped several oil and gas companies deploy Citrix, so the application of this technology shows a lot of promise for our customers and improving the performance of this type of environment.
For oil companies looking at provisioning overseas offices, rigs or supply bases this solution would be a great fit as it can be deployed quickly and is significantly more simple to then manage compared to solutions made up of the component parts of server, storage and network. My thoughts are this could also be built into a shipping container as a convenient method of housing the technology in more remote locations.
NetApp, Cisco and VMware are not the first people to collaborate on a solution of this kind however. On returning from the event I thought I’d do some further research and see that EMC, Dell, HP and IBM all have similar offerings. On balance though, I still think the FlexPod solution stands apart. There appear to be few ties in operating system choice and scalability and flexibility across the blade chassis and storage platform is unrivalled in the humble opinion of this engineer!
The FlexPod solution has been installed by 1100 companies across the globe, 88 in the UK. With a starting price of £15,000 it’s surprisingly economical too. I’m excited about exploring this technology further in the context of some of our customers and hope to report back again in the future about our progress on this front.
All in all a great day and something which really got my propellers spinning!