Cisco, NetApp Unveil ExpressPod Infrastructure Solutions for SMBs

The ExpressPod offerings integrate Cisco server and networking products with storage arrays from NetApp. The two also announced enhancements to their FlexPod solutions.

Cisco Systems and NetApp are unveiling integrated data center solutions aimed at small and midsize businesses that are looking to expand their infrastructure virtualization capabilities.

The new ExpressPod offerings—which include Cisco server and networking products and storage technology from NetApp—are the latest effort by the two vendors to bring many of the features in their FlexPod solutions to the SMB market. Cisco and NetApp in April introduced a FlexPod solution for small and midsize businesses (SMBs). The new ExpressPod solution is aimed at businesses that have 500 or fewer users and tend to have little if any IT staff.

At the same time, Cisco and NetApp also are offering enhancements for their enterprise-level FlexPod solutions to ramp up the scalability, capacity and performance.

"With the introduction of ExpressPod and feature enhancements in FlexPod, NetApp and Cisco offer end-to-end infrastructure solutions for midsized businesses to large enterprises,” Brendon Howe, vice president of product and solutions marketing at NetApp, said in a statement. “These solutions simplify data center infrastructure deployments and accelerate the move from fragmented application silos to shared, virtualized and cloud environments."

The ExpressPod offerings, announced Oct. 10, come in two configurations that integrate Unified Computing Systems (UCS) C-Series servers and Nexus 3048 switches with infrastructure management from Cisco, and FAS2220 or FAS2240 storage technology from NetApp. One version offers two UCS C220 M3 1U (1.75-inch) rack servers from Cisco and an FAS2220 storage array from NetApp. A larger model comes with four Cisco servers and the FAS2240 NetApp storage array. Both models also include the Nexus 3048 switches.

The solutions, which will be available in November via Cisco’s and NetApp’s joint channel partners, also support a range of management and virtualization hypervisor solutions, including VMware, Microsoft and its Hyper-V and Citrix System’s XenServer technology.

The FlexPod offerings, which have been on the market for two years, are aimed more at enterprises with highly virtualized data center environments running cloud workloads. Like the ExpressPod, they come with Cisco servers and switches and storage arrays from NetApp, but also include application solutions from such software vendors as Oracle and SAP and rely heavily on VMware virtualization technology.

More than 1,300 companies worldwide have leveraged FlexPod solutions in as they embrace the cloud, according to Cisco officials.

One of the enhancements to the FlexPod solution is aimed at making it easier for enterprises to add nodes to their storage clusters by offering support and validation for VMware’s vSphere technology on NetApp’s ONTAP 8 when the storage operating system is in cluster-mode. With the enhancement, businesses can create large pools of storage that span storage devices and can scale rapidly. Those pools of storage resources can be dynamically allocated and isolated in a secure fashion for multi-tenant environments.

At the same time, NetApps clustering technology enables enterprises to migrate hundreds of virtual machines at one time, bringing easier load balancing, system maintenance and device upgrade without having to interrupt applications that are running.

In addition, Cisco and NetApp are now offering design support—such as deployment best practices—for companies virtualizing Oracle RAC databases with VMware’s vSphere and vCenter products.