NetApp FlashRay is dead long live SolidFire, AFF and EF

Just prior to Christmas NetApp announced that it will be buying SolidFire and its All-Flash Array (AFA), at the same time they have also stated that they will not be bringing FlashRay to market.

I think this is a good thing as we have needed clarity with regard to the future of FlashRay for some time, and it has been evident that NetApp has been taking what they have learnt from the FlashRay project to enhance All-Flash FAS (AFF). FlashRay will therefore continue to live on in AFF and it will continue to get further FlashRay related features and performance enhancements over the next few years.

So NetApp has lost one and gained one AFA, still leaving them with three platforms – surely that is two too many?

So why does NetApp need three AFAs?

That’s easy – each platform uses very different architectures and with each type of architecture comes strengths and weaknesses – there can never be a single architecture that is best at everything:

SolidFire strengths

  • Simple to deploy, manage and scale-out/in
    • Scales from 4 to 100 nodes
    • Non-disruptive system expansion, contraction, upgrades and refreshes
  • Mix different capacity, performance and protocols within the same cluster
  • Global inline de-dupe, byte based compression (inline and post-process) and variable block sizes
  • Zero-overhead Snapshots and Clones
  • High-speed Thin Provisioning
  • QoS guarantees (Minimum, Maximum and Burst)
  • Integrated data protection with backup to cloud object stores
  • All-inclusive licensing

AFF strengths

  • Inline De-duplication, Compression and Zero Write Elimination
  • Zero-overhead Snapshots and Clones
  • High-speed Double Disk Protection and Thin Provisioning
  • Integrated Application Aware Data Protection
  • Fully unified SAN (iSCSI/FC) and NAS (CIFS/NFS)
  • Built for vSphere and Hyper-V
    • Stretched Cluster (vMotion/HA over distance) and Virtual Volumes
    • SMB 3.0 Continuous Availability Shares, Remote VSS and ODX
    • Converts VMs from one hypervisor to another in minutes
  • Scale-up and Scale-out architecture
    • Mix All-Flash, Hybrid Flash and All-HDD nodes in a cluster
    • Perform non-disruptive moves, upgrades and refreshes
  • Software-Defined platforms
    • Cloud ONTAP runs in the Public Cloud (AWS)
    • ONTAP Edge runs in remote offices (on vSphere)

EF strengths

  • Incredible performance out of just 2U (650,000 IOPS at 800µ seconds latency)
  • Simple to scale-up using Dynamic Disk Pools double disk protection
  • Low cost per usable TB (not effective TB after de-duplication and compression like most AFAs)
  • All-inclusive licensing

As can be seen from above – AFF is the clear winner when it comes to features, but as always it comes down to use case – it may well be that under some circumstances EF or SolidFire will be the much better fit.

The Common Data Transport

NetApp are currently building a common replication engine that runs across all of their platforms – this Common Data Transport is based on technology from FAS (SnapMirror/SnapVault) and once this comes to EF and SolidFire they will have a very compelling story, as it will then be easy to move data between all three platforms.

What do you think – was it a good idea for NetApp to purchase SolidFire and kill off FlashRay?

Related Posts

  1. Should NetApp “kill-off” FlashRay?
  2. Is there another storage platform as feature rich as NetApp FAS?
  3. Why NetApp E-Series SAN storage is really cool
Mark Burgess has worked in IT since 1984, starting as a programmer on DEC VAX systems, then moving into PC software development using Clipper and FoxPro. From here he moved into network administration using Novell NetWare, which kicked-off his interest in storage. In 1999 he co-founded SNS, a consultancy firm initially focused on Novell technologies, but overtime Virtualisation and Storage. Mark writes a popular blog and is a frequent contributor to Twitter and other popular Virtualisation and Storage blog sites.
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About Mark Burgess

Mark Burgess has worked in IT since 1984, starting as a programmer on DEC VAX systems, then moving into PC software development using Clipper and FoxPro. From here he moved into network administration using Novell NetWare, which kicked-off his interest in storage. In 1999 he co-founded SNS, a consultancy firm initially focused on Novell technologies, but overtime Virtualisation and Storage. Mark writes a popular blog and is a frequent contributor to Twitter and other popular Virtualisation and Storage blog sites.

2 thoughts on “NetApp FlashRay is dead long live SolidFire, AFF and EF

  1. Hi Mark,

    Mike from NetApp here,

    Good points , there is a distinct difference between the platforms which will allow NetApp to serve a multitude of business needs. It’s not about media , it is about architecture.

    One of the things that I see as a key strength of Solidfire above and beyond the above is that it is also software defined – using Element X service providers are able to buy software only from Solidfire. ONTAP has Edge but the shared nothing architecture of Element OS will in my view lend itself better to large scale Software Defined deployments.

  2. Hi Mike,

    That is very true, I did not put it on the list because at this stage Element X has a very restrictive set of hardware platforms it supports and also it is only aimed at large enterprises and service providers.

    I am hoping that NetApp will broaden the focus of the product by allowing you to start with just two physical nodes (using much larger SSDs than is currently supported) and have general availability of Element X with broader hardware support.

    Best regards
    Mark

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