Cisco, NetApp expand FlexPod data center platform partnership

FlexPod will be available for branch offices and public cloud infrastructure

Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) and NetApp are expanding their FlexPod data center platform partnership to include branch offices, multi-data-center environments and public cloud infrastructure, the firms announced Thursday.

FlexPod is a data center platform for hosting business applications on virtualized or physical servers. It combines Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) servers and Cisco Nexus fabric with NetApp unified storage systems into a single architecture. The two firms have been cooperating on the FlexPod architecture for over a decade and now have over 2,100 customers in 35 countries.

"As we begin to think about connecting the enterprise IT all the way from the branch offices to the data centers to the cloud, the solutions of the future need to be able to offer a simplified deployment, management and orchestration model across the continuum. That is what this expanded collaboration is aimed at," said Manish Goel, executive vice president of product operations at NetApp, in a video discussion with Padmasree Warrior, chief technology and strategy officer at Cisco.

Warrior explained the two firms are expanding their partnership in four areas: deeper integration of the FlexPod architecture, expansion of the FlexPod product to cloud-scale service providers, extension of FlexPod to branch offices and a new FlexPod application validation program.

As part of the improvements made to the partnership, FlexPod will be able to manage up to 10,000 servers, enabling enterprises to aggregate several FlexPod racks and multihop Fibre Channel over Ethernet.

FlexPod will also incorporate the products offered by Cloupia, which Cisco acquired last year for $125 million, as part of the expanded partnership.

The two firms will also integrate Flash technologies at the host and storage levels. At the server level, applications running on Flash-optimized Cisco UCS servers can be accelerated with NetApp Flash Accel, while at the controller and array levels, NetApp Flash Cache and Flash Pools can be used to access cached data faster, the companies explained.

Cisco is denying that the expanded partnership with NetApp signals a shift away from its Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) collation partners, EMC (NYSE: EMC) and VMware (NYSE: VMW), according to a report by Network World.

The three firms set up the coalition in 2009 to promote enterprise data center virtualization and transition to private cloud infrastructure. Asked by Network World whether the expanded NetApp partnership undermines the VCE coalition, Jim McHugh, vice president of marketing at Cisco, said, "Absolutely not. It's complementary to that."

McHugh stressed that the VCE coalition focuses on data centers and private cloud, whereas the expanded NetApp partnership includes branch offices and public cloud infrastructure.

Whether Cisco is abandoning its VCE coalition partners or not, it is clear the firm is going after the virtualization, cloud and data center market is a big way.

For more:
- see the Cisco-NetApp announcement
- watch the Goel-Warrior discussion
- read the Network World article

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