NetApp has just made 2015 the year of the affordable All-Flash Array – Part 1

The storage array industry has been struggling over the last few years, all the major vendors have seen a decline in revenues and whilst the start-ups appear to be doing well, the reality is that I do not believe any of them actually make a profit. On top of this there is a push towards software-defined storage (i.e. VMware VSAN) and hyper-converged platforms (i.e. EVO:RAIL and Nutanix), there are some advantages with these solutions, but like all new technologies there are also significant downsides – I have explored this in more detail here. Anyone who knows me, is very aware that I am a big fan of home cinema and analogies, so let’s compare home cinema equipment to a storage array – I am always on Continue reading

NetApp has just made 2015 the year of the affordable All-Flash Array – Part 2

In the previous post I looked at the background behind the NetApp All-Flash FAS (AFF) and explored how its commercial value proposition is likely to impact the storage industry, in this post I will look at the AFF in more detail – the key highlights are: Always-on data efficiency Inline Compression (8K) Inline Zero Write Elimination (4K) Always-On De-duplication (4K) Zero-overhead Thin Provisioning (4K) New flash optimisations to reduce latency Optimised SCSI Drivers Read Path Flash Optimisations Optimised thresholds as HDDs are not supported Built on many years of optimising FAS for flash Writes are not in the critical latency path Writes are coalesced in the memory before being de-staged Never overwrites the current version of that block New writes go to free Continue reading

Are you still running NetApp FAS in 7-Mode?

I think it is fair to say that the majority of FAS arrays are still running Data ONTAP 7-Mode, but as it is no longer being enhanced the time has come to start thinking about moving to Clustered Data ONTAP (cDOT) – let’s explore some of the benefits of upgrading: Non-disruptive operations – for upgrades, migrations to new arrays and workload re-balancing within a cluster Massive scale-up and scale-out – to meet any future performance and capacity requirements Rapid VM migration – bidirectionally between ESXi and Hyper-V Comprehensive monitoring – using the free Performance Manager Hybrid cloud integration – with Cloud ONTAP for AWS Quality of Service – to control bully workloads Enhanced Flash support – including FlashEssentials code optimisations, much larger Flash Pools, more powerful hardware and dedicated Continue reading

VMware VVOLs on NetApp FAS is now available to deploy

More information on VVOLs is being released every week and it is only now that we are getting a chance to play with the full release code that we are able to dig into the detail of how it works. Let’s start off by exploring the benefits of VVOLs that are likely to make it game changing technology: Granular Control of VMs Enable VM granular storage operations on individual virtual disks for the first time including control of the following capabilities: Auto Grow Compression De-duplication Disk Types: SATA, FCAL, SAS, SSD Flash Accelerated High Availability Maximum Throughput: IOPS & MBs Replication Protocol: NFS, iSCSI, FC,FCoE Enhanced Efficiency and Performance Off-load VM snapshots, clones and moves to the array Automatically optimise I/O paths for all Continue reading

Should NetApp “kill off” FlashRay?

Before we discuss if NetApp should “kill off” FlashRay let’s review what its key features are: All-Flash Array (AFA) designed for current and upcoming flash technologies High performance in-line de-duplication and compression Flash-optimised I/O stack to keep latency ultra-low Variable length block layout that is equally adept at different I/O sizes Scale-out architecture Thin provisioning Distributed dual-parity RAID 250,000 IOPS @ 0.5 ms on 8K I/O 8GB/s on large-block I/O Now I am a great believer in the fact that we do not want storage silos therefore ideally FlashRay needs to support HDDs and/or different tiers of SDDs. I know we are discussing AFAs, but I just do not see HDDs going away for many years therefore as much as it sounds strange Continue reading

Should NetApp rename FAS and ONTAP?

We live in a world heavily focused on marketing – great products with poor marketing will fail whereas okay products with great marketing will succeed. NetApp has introduced considerable innovation into the FAS platform over the last 5 years – including the Clustered version of ONTAP, substantial Flash optimisations and Cloud ONTAP for AWS (with Azure to follow). This is all cutting edge stuff that few if any competitors can match (see Is there another storage platform as feature rich as NetApp FAS? for more thoughts). The challenge for NetApp is that the storage industry has changed over this period with many start-up all-flash/hybrid-flash array and hyper-converged platform vendors entering the market. These all give the perception (mostly marketing of course) of being Continue reading

A deeper look into NetApp’s support for VMware Virtual Volumes

Virtual Volumes is the flagship feature of vSphere 6.0 as they enable VM granular storage management and NetApp FAS running Clustered Data ONTAP 8.3 is one of the first platforms to support the technology. Today storage administrators have to explain to the VM administrators how to identify which datastores to use for each class of VM, which is typically achieved using a combination of documentation and datastore naming conventions – however, consistency and compliance are difficult to achieve. Virtual Volumes changes this by enabling the storage administrator to provide vCenter with detailed information on the capabilities of each datastore. VM Storage Policies, whilst they existed in previous versions of vSphere were not sophisticated enough to query the actual storage for its capabilities, the Continue reading

Is there another storage platform as feature rich as NetApp FAS?

I think it is fair to say that NetApp FAS running Clustered Data ONTAP is a very feature rich platform – the move to the clustered version of ONTAP has brought many next-generation features including Scale-out and Non-disruptive Operations. As a benchmark let’s compare FAS to EMC’s solutions – I fully appreciate that EMC has taken a best of breed approach, but my feeling is that for most non-enterprise customers this is not a sustainable strategy – customers want simplicity and ease of use, and you are not going to get that by deploying four different storage platforms to meet your needs. I have chosen EMC because they are the overall market share leader and they have the broadest set Continue reading

What’s new in NetApp Clustered Data ONTAP 8.3?

As we move into the world of Software-Defined Storage it “sticks out like a sore thumb” when an array vendor only makes new software releases available on their next generation hardware. The problem with this is that even if you purchase at the very beginning of the life cycle of a product, at best you will get one round of feature enhancements, after that all software development is focused on the next generation product. This often even includes support for new drive types – again they are only supported on the latest generation hardware. This problem is very evident when it comes to support for VMware Virtual Volumes – any array vendor that will be releasing new hardware next year is unlikely Continue reading

Comparing NetApp MetroCluster with EMC VPLEX Metro Continuous Availability solutions

MetroCluster was the last major feature of 7-Mode to be ported over to Clustered Data ONTAP (it is included in the recently announced 8.3 version). Metro cluster solutions enable zero RPO and near zero RTO and they are typically a requirement for building a VMware Stretched Cluster (to enable vMotion, HA, DRS and FT over distance). Let’s take a look at how MetroCluster compares with EMC’s flagship continuous availability solution – VPLEX Metro: MetroCluster is standard feature of ONTAP, rather than a separate product, and requires: A 2-node cluster at each of the two sites – all nodes in a MetroCluster need to be identical (FAS2500 series not supported) 2 x FC switches per site and 4 x FC ports per controller – Continue reading