Cisco, NetApp and FlexPod history
Cisco introduced its industry standard, X86-based mainframe under the name Unified Computing System (UCS) in 2009. At this time, many industry pundits, including me, thought this was a rather strange move considering that Cisco often relied upon its system supplier friends to bring them into customer accounts. While the move created quite a bit of tension between Cisco and all of the system suppliers, Cisco has had a great deal of success with their systems.
Cisco and NetApp announced a partnership and introduced a flexible, extensible storage system called "FlexPod" in 2010. Since that time Cisco and NetApp have built a customer base of over 3,000 customers. NetApp informed me that new installations doubled since this time in 2012.
Cisco and NetApp have created a FlexPod Cooperative Support Program that now includes players such as Citrix, Microsoft, VMware, CA and BMC.
Products such as Citrix XenDesktop, Citrix XenServer and Citrix CloudPlatform, Microsoft System Center, VMWare vCenter Orchestrator, CA Automation Suite for Clouds, and BMC Cloud Lifecycle Manager are part of that program.
What's new with FlexPod?
NetApp went on to discuss major enhancements to the FlexPod portfolio (FlexPod Data Center, FlexPod Express, FlexPod Select) for enterprise and cloud service providers. Here is a summary of the announcements provided by NetApp
FlexPod Datacenter with NetApp MetroCluster for Multi-Data Center Cloud Infrastructure This brings a unique continuous availability and zero data loss capability to the FlexPod platform. This architecture newly incorporates OTV support with Cisco Nexus® 7000.
FlexPod Datacenter with Cisco Virtualized Multiservice Data Center 2.3 for IaaS Cloud Providers FlexPod Datacenter with Cisco Virtualized Multiservice Data Center 2.3 enables a scalable, highly secure and resilient infrastructure to enable service providers to build clouds.
UCS Director 4.1 deeply integrated with clustered Data ONTAP New integrations with UCS Director and Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC) provide automation and service catalogues, which help customers move toward delivering cloud services.
As organizations pursued computing solutions based upon X86-based, industry standard systems, they ran headlong into the same problems found and solved in earlier times by both Midrange systems and Mainframes. The drive towards highly distributed, service-based computing architectures certainly offered companies a great deal of flexibility, performance, scalability and reliability. It also brought high levels of complexity and problems with both security and manageability.
Pulling a few tricks out of a Mainframe hat, Cisco, Dell, HP, and IBM have launched "converged infrastructure" systems. That is, they brought the key elements of a mainframe computer back together in a single enclosure, and instituted a single management and security domain. Rather than calling the result an industry standard mainframe, Cisco fought the term and insisted that the industry call these industry standard mainframes "unified computing systems" (UCS). I call them X86-based mainframes.
As the industry deploys ever more virtualized computing environments that rely on virtual access, applications, processing, networking and storage, the levels of complexity have risen to a point that managing the environment is often very difficult. Putting everything back together reduces levels of complexity while still offering the benefits of industry standard components, operating systems, application development tools and frameworks. This approach should reduce costs of administration and operations too.