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How do NetApp's FlexPod and EVO: RAIL systems compare?

NetApp will soon ship a version of VMware's EVO: RAIL, which is designed to achieve similar goals as its existing FlexPod reference architecture. So how do they differ?

While today’s data center systems offer mainframe-like hardware features and flexibility, building a system that supports virtualization can be complex. Setting up server, storage and network hardware to ensure everything is connected properly and installing hypervisors and operating systems can be quite complex, as can configuring storage for failover and load balancing. If support for virtual desktop infrastructure is required, even more complexity is introduced. Both the NetApp FlexPod system and its EVO: RAIL system are designed to make the process simple and straightforward by combining storage, servers and network equipment, while EVO: RAIL also includes virtualization.

FlexPod is a converged platform reference architecture of separate products. It includes Cisco UCS servers and Nexus switches and NetApp storage arrays. NetApp’s EVO: RAIL puts storage, compute, networking and hypervisors in one box. Known as the NetApp Integrated EVO: RAIL Solution, it uses VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN) hyper-convergence software, a VMware hypervisor, and NetApp's storage. EVO: RAIL systems with VSAN are available from many vendors including Dell, EMC, Fujitsu and HP. FlexPod is currently available, while NetApp says the EVO: RAIL product will ship in the first half of 2015.

FlexPod is available in three configurations -- a full-height rack of equipment called FlexPod Datacenter, an à la carte system designed for specific workloads such as Hadoop big data known as FlexPod Select, and FlexPod Express, a much smaller system designed for quick deployments in smaller data centers or branch offices.

Both systems offer the same advantages of pre-configured, pre-installed systems with a single support line. There is no need to call multiple hardware or software vendors to resolve an issue, and less chance of support technicians pointing the finger at another vendor.

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