Cisco Live Q&A – Cisco’s David Antkowiak on Putting the Flex in FlexPod


In November of 2010, Cisco and NetApp along with VMware launched the FlexPod, our pre-validated, cloud platform. Since it’s release 8 months ago, the FlexPod program has been an overwhelming success. We are continuing to enhance and grow the platform, by adding new partners who focus on delivering cloud based solutions, aiding our distributors to have enhanced their FlexPod offerings, growning the library of published CVDs, and enhancing solutions like the Secure Multi-Tenancy configuration, and much more! This year at Cisco Live I had the opportunity to sit down with David Antkowiak to hear an insider’s view on FlexPod. David is a Solutions Architect in the Systems Architecture and StrategyGroup (SASU) at Cisco .

Note: This interviewedoriginally occurred on Thursday, July 14th; the last day of Cisco Live.


Vaughn: “Good afternoon David. I really have to laugh; our offices are so close to each other that we can literally walk to the other’s desk any day of the week. Yet the easiest way for us to catch up with one another in Las Vegas. I think we’re way both too busy!”

David: “I know, it’s wild. It has been a very busy year for me and my team especially with all of the activity around FlexPod. Together, Cisco and NetApp made major engineering investments to develop the platform with VMware in order to launch the platform with vSphere. Since then we’ve extended the solution with certifying a number of hardware and software updates, expanded the platform to support CitrixXenServer, and Hyper-V as a part of the Microsoft Cloudfast Track program.”

Vaughn: “I agree, server virtualization is the primary driver of change within the data center, and while our customers are in this state of transition they must manage applications running on a combination of bare-metal and virtualized platforms. This can be a real challenge that customer’s wrestle with. We are seeing the emergence of the multi-hypervisor data center. I must admit, I was skeptical that this would ever occur; however, we are increasingly seeing Citrix XenServer hosting XenDesktop and Microsoft applications running on Hyper-V being deployed in the same data center when VMware powers the core virtual infrastructure.”

“Flexibility is proving to be a critical component in the customer’s purchasing decision. SAN,NAS, bare-metal or virtual servers, etc. Customers want to avoid making apurchase decision based on today’s plan that doesn’t pan out and in turnsaddles the IT department with technology debt.”

David: “Oh yeah, Flexibilityis key. There are a lot of options in FlexPod that other vendors and soluions just don’t have.For example, the ability to abstract hardware configurations from the hardware with technologies like UCS service profiles, Nexus Virtual Device Contexts, and NetApp vFilers provides customers with capabilities in their physical infrastructure that they’ve never had. These capabilities bring new ways to address common data center challenges ranging from hardware failures and platform upgrades to non-IT realted challenges such as asset depreciation and retirement.”

“Beyond that, consider what NetApp offers with their MetroCluster deployment option. Then imagine combining that configuration with Cisco’s ability to span layer 2 networks. Customers who deploy this combination receive a data center architecture that is no longer tied to a physical location. That’s where customers want to be; operating within a ubiquitous data center. Decoupling services from physical location allows customers to rebalance facilities when the planning from a few years ago begins to no longer align with the business reality.”

“With FlexPod, what begins as a small or basic configuration can expand non-disruptively into large scale architecture. best is whatever configuration gets deployed at one site offers the same set of features and tools as another deployed else where, even if the size of the pod is drastically different.”

Vaughn: “Yesterday I had a customer briefing where they built a solution with a range of options, and a point of feedback they emphasized was, ‘One of the great things about a FlexPod is the consistency of the architecture.’  It’s an incredibly powerful aspect and is truly unique in the industry. Today’s customers dont have time to learn the nuances between a mid-tier and a high-end platform in the data center, especially when both are targeted to serve a similar workload. While it seems that everyone under the sun offers some form of a ‘unified this’ or a ‘validated stack’, FlexPod actually delivers an end-to-end unfied platform, and operational simplicity natively ensues.”

David: “Another strong suit around FlexPod is giving customers the option to deploy whatever there business requires to run. Need Red Hat, VMware and Hyper-V on the same ‘stack’,no problem! FlexPod is a buildingblock for anything you want to do in any combination. All of the APIs we offer, we want our customers to take advantage of in their infrastructure and in their services orchestration and automation layer. We have a lot of engineering efforts going on in order to advance the FlexPod solutions.Customers and prospects are asking us for more and we’re going to deliver.”

Vaughn: “I fear I need to cut you off, if that’s OK. I feel we could continue this conversation for hours. I want to ensure we don’t share any NDA roadmap information or scoop any of the conversation you and David Klem captured in your video interview. David, thanks for taking the time to sit down and share your thouhgts. Next time let’s do it over lunch in RTP.”

David: “You’ve got it. thanks for the chat.”


Wait There’s More…

Be sure to watch the video below as it features David and David Kelm, a Reference Architect in NetApp’s FlexPod Infrastructure Engineering team. ‘The Davids’ discuss a number of current engineering projects and share the inside scoop reagrding some of the goals targetd for future FlexPod offerings.




Wrapping Up This Post

I wantto thank David for taking time out his schedule to sit down and share his thoughts. This was another in a long line of great interviews we conducted during Cisco Live. Below is a list of the other interviews in this series. I hope you enjoy them.



The official NetApp at Cisco Live site highlights Cisco & NetApp speaking sessions, demos inthe NetApp, Cisco and Wyse booths, our prize patrol and much more. We’reregularly updating our ‘Who to Follow for FlexPod at Cisco Live‘ list plus you can find the latest blog posts, pictures andupdates on the FlexPod FaceBook page.

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