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Dec 07 2018

Empower Your Business with NFLEX by FUJITSU and NetApp


Data center chiefs and their teams have long dreamed about infrastructure solutions for virtualized application environments that can be deployed in less than a day and start running immediately after setup. Our NFLEX package – which is brought to you as a co-creation from Fujitsu and NetApp, with dashes of Extreme Networks and VMware technology added to the mix – was developed to bring this dream to life.

As we have outlined in these pages many times before, the era of 'classic' data centers with easily discernible compute, storage and network building blocks is beginning to fade – if not immediately, then certainly over the medium term. The reasons are manifold, but can typically be summed up in a single question: How long can owners of so-called legacy infrastructures remain competitive when their contenders can offer identical or better performance and services using largely virtualized setups that run on fewer components, are easier to manage, and ultimately cause less operational expenses than their predecessors? The answer is simple – not for very long, perhaps two to three years on average or probably five with the very best administrators on board. This also explains why so many organizations nowadays contemplate outsourcing their entire IT operations (or at least larger parts thereof) to reliable cloud service providers (CSPs).

However, as always when there are such seemingly clear alternatives, the options tend to get murkier once you start to look at the details. For example, one real-world issue that prevents users from fully embracing cloud services are concerns about data availability and security, as nobody wants to cope with the drama of service outages they have no control over or worse, fallout from hacker attacks that lead to exposure of confidential information, like the data breach at Uber in late 2016. Moreover, practically all companies – even the proverbial garage start-up – must abide by national or international legal and regulatory standards on data protection and privacy. For many of them, the easiest way to maintain control over their data as required by these standards is to maintain control over substantial parts of their infrastructure. In other words, they'll be looking for a way to achieve cloud-like flexibility using on-premises hard- and software installations. Plus, they want to get there in a smooth and efficient manner.

Converged Infrastructures
Historically, businesses have tried to reach the sweet spot where maximum flexibility meets maximum control by deploying combinations of blade servers and storage area networks (SANs) that were meant to satisfy the need for higher integration and greater agility in parallel. But quite frequently, that didn't work out as planned – while being a step in the right direction, the resulting installations were hampered by a batch of interdependencies that made managing them extremely complicated. So another approach was needed, one that would effectively bundle up compute, storage and network components into a single unit and add necessary software on top. That way, you would arrive at the 'condensed' version of a traditional setup, something nowadays called a Converged Infrastructure or CI for short.

The above description provides us with a good general idea of how a CI is supposed to work. But sadly, it doesn't reveal much about the technologies that are used to build a CI and the way they are combined. From a CIO's perspective, a good working definition is to say that a CI combines best-of-breed server, storage and networking technologies into a fully validated stack, but gives administrators freedom of choice about the actual way this stack is deployed. For example, in theory they get to decide whether or not they want to include a virtualization layer or run bare metal applications. In everyday practice, however their role is usually more limited: They determine which API calls trigger actions between the different layers of a CI and, more importantly, develop and refine the parameters under which specific applications will run so as to fine-tune performance. Essentially, their main line of work becomes akin to that of a Formula 1 race engineer, who is also expected to optimize a given hardware stack for a specific purpose.

NFLEX – Fast Track to a Working CI
Needless to say, before any 'race engineer admins' can work their magic, you need to give them a decent platform to start with. That's precisely where NFLEX comes into play. This powerful solution is developed and jointly owned by Fujitsu and NetApp and marks a high point in our lasting technology partnership, building on 20 years of combined expertise to offer a single-but-complete package that makes rolling out converged infrastructures almost as fast and efficient as a tire change during a pit stop. How? The answer is simple: NFLEX provides customers with a full-fledged ecosystem (cf. Fig. 1) of complementary technologies, namely

  • FUJITSU Server PRIMERGY CX400 M4 chassis that are equipped with four PRIMERGY CX2560 M4 server nodes boasting two Intel® Xeon® Silver or Gold CPUs that offer 12/18 cores and run at clock speeds of 2.1/2.3 GHz in regular and 3.0/3.7 GHz in turbo mode; in addition, each node may house up to 12 DDR4 DIMMs to support performance mode, with total memory capacities ranging from 384 GB to 1.5 TB
  • NetApp A-Series All Flash Arrays – in particular AFF A220 models that hold at minimum 12 and at most up to 24 SSDs with 960 GB individual capacity and thus house up to 23.0 TB of data per shelf; or AFF A300 models that employ the same numbers of 3.8-TB-SSDs and provide up to 45.6/91.2 TB usable storage space per shelf
  • VDX Switches from Extreme Networks – more specifically two VDX6740 models equipped with 48 x 10 GbE SFP+ ports and four 40 GbE QSFP+ ports for data transfers that allow for transfer speeds of up to 1.28 Tb/s and one VDX6740T model with 48 x 1 GbE SFP+ for management purposes
  • VMware vSphere software, which serves as the virtualization layer, and Fujitsu Infrastructure Manager (ISM), which helps organizations to gain centralized control over their entire data center infrastructure (the above hardware components plus related software as well as controls for cloud management, power and cooling) through a single user interface


Fig. 1: The NFLEX Ecosystem includes every component that is needed to successfully deploy, operate and maintain a converged infrastructure

NFLEX by Fujitsu and NetApp is available in varying sizes that cover evolving data center needs. The "mainstream" consists of three core configurations. The M30 variant includes one CX400 chassis with 4 servers, the M50 edition features two chassis and eight servers, and the M70 configuration houses three chassis with 12 servers. Across all systems, both the compute and storage capacities can be scaled independently with precision. These three configurations will easily accommodate a boatload of use cases, ranging from desktop virtualization through workload and server consolidation to serving as a basis for hybrid cloud infrastructures. For more extreme conditions, we can deliver a maximum configuration that sports up to four chassis/16 servers and adds up to four more DIMMs per server node while the NetApp storage system can be fitted with a total of 48 SSDs. For users in need of a smaller solution, Fujitsu exclusively offers an entry-level system (M10) consisting of two CX2560 node servers and a NetApp FAS 2750 hybrid flash storage array.

As of mid-October, we have further expanded our portfolio with NFLEX for SAP Environments, an optimized version that supports the full range of installations from SAP Business Suite to SAP S/4HANA® and SAP BW/4HANA deployments. NFLEX for SAP Environments is available in three editions building on the M30, M50 and M70 core configurations.

Availability and Pricing
The NFLEX Converged Infrastructure solution and the NFLEX Converged Infrastructure solution for SAP Environments are available to order immediately from Fujitsu and its channel partners in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Pricing and availability vary according to configuration and region.

For more information, please visit our NFLEX site or its counterpart from NetApp. Alternatively, you may want to check out the product page, where you will find white papers, a solution brief and, most importantly, case studies.

Venkata Narayanan


About the Author:

Venkata Narayanan

Global Product Marketing – Converged Infrastructure


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