Adding infrastructure and capacity to virtual systems can be a costly headache, but it doesn’t have to be. NetApp IT devised a cost-effective way of solving this challenge with FlexPod®, developed by NetApp and Cisco.  FlexPod is the standard reference architecture NetApp IT uses to build infrastructure in our data centers. This converged infrastructure solution provides the technical specifics on how to get the most business benefit from IT infrastructure.


Capacity vs. Cost

Due to increasing demands for IT services at NetApp, the corporate IT team needed to expand the capacity of our IT infrastructure. We first evaluated deploying new Cisco® Unified Computing System (UCS) blade servers to support additional virtual machines. This included looking at data center costs such as space, power, and cooling for the addition of the new UCS chassis and blades. We needed to take into account the increased software licensing costs for additional central processing units (CPUs).  The time and costs required to move forward with the capacity expansion were not trivial.


Out-of-the-Box Approach

We decided to try a new approach to augment capacity. We evaluated our systems and observed that the CPUs had more room for additional virtual machines. We determined that we could increase the memory capacity of each CPU to increase the number of virtual machines. Due to the flexibility of the UCS servers, we could expand each blade system’s memory by 50%. We moved forward by taking the blades out of the chassis, upgrading the memory, and then put the blades back in. We did all of this non-disruptively by upgrading the virtual machines in a rolling fashion without affecting the production applications running on the blades.


That is the beauty of FlexPod. We were able to add more virtual machines without incurring additional software licensing costs, which are based on the number of CPUs. Because we upgraded the memory within existing blades, we didn’t have to buy new licenses. In addition, we eliminated the costs related to the additional space, power, and cooling required by the new chassis. Moreover, we significantly reduced the time required to make this change to our infrastructure as compared with a full upgrade or replacement of hardware. We were able to contain our blade growth and keep the license numbers below our plan for FY2015.


With one stone we plucked so many mangoes! By adding memory to our current virtual environment, we were able to stay within our current operating plan and budget. And thanks to FlexPod we were able to expand our virtual capacity without expanding our physical data center infrastructure.


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