Cisco and NetApp on Tuesday unveiled plans to help customers accelerate their move to the cloud. At the heart of those plans is FlexPod.

Cisco and NetApp are extending the FlexPod with a series of new pre-validated design architectures priced and sized for smaller workloads. Cisco and NetApp have also validated several new management solutions from leading software management vendors for all FlexPod design architectures.

Satinder Sethi, vice president for data center solutions in the Data Center Group at Cisco, said the company continues to work with partners like NetApp as customers balance the need to scale for future growth with rapidly deployable solutions. Sethi outlined the goal of the partnership: "With NetApp, Cisco is working to increase opportunities for partners to provide customers with the scalability, flexibility, and manageability of Cisco UCS with NetApp storage to achieve maximum return on investment."

The Entry-Level FlexPod

The entry-level FlexPod solution aims at businesses with 500 to 1,000 users that want to invest only in the infrastructure they need -- no more and no less. The solution will scale to larger enterprises by adding more capacity as needs grow.

Under the hood, the entry-level FlexPod combines the NetApp FAS2240 and the Cisco UCS C-Series Cisco Nexus 5000 Switches, Cisco Nexus 2232 Fabric Extender, and Cisco UCS 6200 Series Fabric Interconnects. The technology supports multiple hypervisors and business apps that aim to drive faster private cloud deployments.

"When we began looking for a solution to replace a large part of our existing server infrastructure, we sought three things: storage, speed, and virtualization," said Omer Mushahwar, senior associate at Torti Gallas and Partners. "FlexPod has freed us not only from aging equipment but a 100 percent physical environment, which has allowed our infrastructure to take a huge leap forward."

Cisco's Kick Start

We caught up with long-time Cisco watcher Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research, to get the no-spin story behind the story. He said Cisco is making this move after learning some hard lessons on the VoIP front. Cisco got a few bloody noses along the way to pushing out its VoIP solutions, he said, and it was largely because the customers and channel were not ready for the technology.

"These validated designs are almost step-by-step methods on how to deploy the infrastructure. It's like a prescriptive path to the cloud versus just trying to sell the vision and have customers deploy it themselves," Kerravala said. "I don't even think the channel is ready for this."

By Cisco and NetApp working together, he said, the companies can put these solutions together for the channel and customers can begin to run with them. He said the partnership is as much about "Cisco protection" as it is about customers and channels.

"If the deployment is going to be successful, that means Cisco's got to have success, the channel partner does and so does the customer," Kerravala said. "The best way to guarantee that is to go build and validate a solution, and make sure your channel partners are ready to deploy it and then sell that. You can almost think of it as kind of a kick-start program."