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FlexPod Express Converged Infrastructure Simplifies VMware Solution Design, Deployment, and Growth


Industry trends indicate that data center transformation is occurring towards a hybrid cloud infrastructure with on-premises shared infrastructure, cloud computing, and the connectivity enabled by data fabric powered by NetApp to seamlessly provide data where it is needed. In addition, organizations seek a simple, reliable, and scalable VMware solution infrastructure for remote and branch offices.

In this blog, I will provide an overview of the three-tier solution architecture design and the FlexPod® Express NetApp Verified Architecture, which implements a resilient three-tier VMware solution with Cisco UCS Mini and NetApp® AFF or FAS systems.


For a VMware solution to deliver the outcomes that companies depend on, it should be simple to design, deploy, maintain, and also flexible to scale and grow. Figure 1 shows a three-tier solution architecture with resiliency built into the design, including three servers, two network switches, and one highly available storage that supports NAS and SAN protocols.

Figure 1) A resilient three-tier solution architecture.




With this design, workloads can be balanced among the compute servers and compute resources can be scaled by adding additional servers or additional memories in each server. The workload and virtual machines can be live migrated off a server for server maintenance or upgrade purposes.

The networking tier includes two switches to provide redundant connectivity between the servers and the storage system.

The storage tier should meet the performance, capacity, and cost objectives, and provide the storage protocol the solution requires, such as NFS for NAS and iSCSI for SAN.

The redundant components and connectivity in the design ensures high availability for various single-point-of-failure scenarios and allows the component and software upgrade to take place without impacting the availability of the solution.

Solution architecture

Figure 2 shows how the FlexPod Express for VMware vSphere 7.0 solution architecture implements the three-tier architecture that we discussed. It includes a Cisco UCS Mini for compute, a NetApp AFF C190, AFF A220, or FAS 2700 series storage system, and two Cisco Nexus 3000 series switches with redundant connectivity between the component tiers.

Figure 2) FlexPod Express solution architecture with Cisco UCS Mini and NetApp AFF/FAS.



The Cisco UCS 6324 Fabric Interconnects embedded in chassis simplify the connectivity between the servers, switches, and the storage system. You can start with a small solution configuration using just three blade servers. Additional blades can be added into the chassis to grow the solution without requiring any additional cables. You can boot a server from its local SD card or from the iSCSI SAN.

You can choose the NetApp storage system that best meets your solution requirements and future growth projections. For a small solution, you can deploy the AFF C190 with only eight SSDs to start. You can use AFF A220 if higher storage capacity or higher I/O performance is required. If minimizing cost is your objective, you can use the FAS 2700 series storage systems.

With the NetApp ONTAP® storage efficiency features, including thin provisioning, deduplication, compression, and compaction, your data is very efficiently stored in the system. When your data grows, you can add additional disks or disk shelves for more capacity. In addition, you can take advantage of the NetApp FabricPool technology to tier infrequently accessed cold data to the public cloud or to the on-premises object storage using the S3 protocols.

Finally, if you already have an existing networking infrastructure with switches that meets the compliant switches requirements, you can build your solution with those switches and the Cisco UCS Mini and NetApp storage to reduce costs.

Solution benefits

There are three important benefits the solution provides:

  • A highly flexible architecture with choices of components to meet the performance, capacity, and cost objectives of your VMware solution.
  • A highly available solution design with multiprotocol support, 3x storage efficiency guarantee for mixed workload, and cloud connected data fabric, making the solution simple to deploy, maintain, and easy to scale and grow.
  • A highly reliable infrastructure with tier-1 enterprise HW from NetApp and Cisco backed by a cooperative support model.


In summary, customers can count on NetApp, Cisco, and the FlexPod Express for VMware vSphere with Cisco UCS Mini and NetApp AFF and FAS solution to deliver a highly available, highly flexible, and highly scalable converged infrastructure. This solution will simplify your VMware solution design, deployment, and growth.