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FlexPod XCS brings cloud capabilities to data centers

FlexPod XCS, the latest NetApp and Cisco converged infrastructure appliance, expands support for hybrid cloud environments with hyperscaler integrations.

Cisco Systems and NetApp are taking the capabilities of the FlexPod converged infrastructure appliance line to the cloud.

FlexPod XCS, the latest FlexPod release that combines NetApp's storage OS OnTap and Cisco's cloud operations platform Intersight, adds new hybrid cloud capabilities to the two companies' CI reference architecture. These additions expand integration with cloud hyperscalers for storage and cloud-native application development using containers.

FlexPod XCS will be sold primarily through channel partners later this year. Pricing is based on Cisco Intersight subscriptions and selected hardware configurations, according to the companies.

Hybrid strategy

Native integrations with AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Platform for storage and app development are overseen using Cisco's Intersight and NetApp's OnTap, the company's flagship storage operating system.

The FlexPod XCS supports additional cloud subscription services from Cisco and NetApp to simplify cloud storage backup, container application development for DevOps and automation capabilities.

Some of these additional subscription services include Intersight Kubernetes Service and NetApp Astra, which manage Kubernetes container deployments and storage, respectively. They are important additions for enterprises operating in a hybrid cloud, according to David Raffo, senior analyst at Evaluator Group.

"NetApp has been tweaking their stuff to make it more cloud-friendly," Raffo said. "It's a little more modern than what you'd get in the data center."

NetApp has been tweaking their stuff to make it more cloud-friendly. It's a little more modern than what you'd get in the data center.
David RaffoSenior analyst, Evaluator Group

Growing family

The FlexPod XCS joins about a half-dozen other FlexPod CI appliances sold by NetApp and Cisco for the past decade but is the first version to offer hyperscaler integrations out of the box.

These appliances bundle Cisco and NetApp's respective networking and storage hardware and are capable of connecting with other FlexPod nodes across an enterprise to pool compute, storage and networking capabilities.

CI appliances provide a hardware standard and baseline for performance for tested workloads alongside the benefit of just one channel seller should issues with hardware and software arise.

The connections and workload testing with AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform enable OnTap and Intersight to sync on-premises infrastructure with the cloud.

Cloud connections between FlexPod XCS and public cloud hyperscalers allow OnTap to support colder but still mission-critical data, such as the data used for disaster recovery and ransomware backups, including snapshots, without consuming data center drives. Intersight, meanwhile, can enable the creation of new cloud workloads as necessary to keep up with bursts in user demands.

Features like these are important for enterprises that may not want to fully move into the cloud but still want a "pay-as-you-grow" capability for their data center, according to Mike Arterbury, vice president and general manager of hybrid cloud infrastructure and OEM solutions at NetApp.

"Our customers [have] legacy applications they're trying to refactor for public cloud," Arterbury said. "[XCS gives] them visibility into all their resources regardless of where those resources sit."

The FlexPod CI line has remained popular for the past decade, Raffo said, noting that a converged infrastructure can scale out individual infrastructure components. The separation of components is useful compared to the all-or-nothing approach of hyperconverged infrastructure, which requires all parts of the technology stack to expand should any one component need replacement or expansion, he said.

"The idea behind FlexPod is to simplify both networking and storage," he said. "It's been a successful program for [Cisco and NetApp]."

Tim McCarthy is a journalist living on the North Shore of Massachusetts. He covers cloud and data storage news.

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