NetApp hearts SolidFire

    NetApp hearts SolidFire

    Since last June, a large part of my time has been spent travelling throughout the region, helping people understand the benefits of All Flash FAS. While it has been busy, it’s been a very exciting time for me as a technologist. Its always fun to disrupt market and to beat back the competition with a superior product.

    Uniquely, along with the benefits of being a first class citizen within the NetApp data fabric, All Flash FAS combines;

    • The best of both scale-up and scale-out architectures,
    • It has built in quality of service to solve the noisy neighbour problem,
    • It’s integration with NetApp and third party orchestration and automation platforms is excellent,
    • It’s reliability is second to none,
    • And the improvements it has made on top of ONTAP’s storage efficiency heritage are impressive.

    In many ways, All Flash FAS has enhanced the strengths of ONTAP and has simultaneously removed the remaining concerns about running high performance storage on top of a log-structured file system.

    A worthy opponent
    Despite the positive steps forward, in such a competitive market there are always challenges. Until recently, there was one specific competitor that gave me cause for concern, and I was secretly glad that their presence in APAC was fairly small.

    They worried me because although they didn’t have a scale-up capability at all, they matched or exceeded a number of important AFF strengths;

    • Their scale out model was beautiful.
      • It provided a single global pool of block capacity that could start small and scale to performance levels nobody else could match and the additional units were easy to buy and easy to install
    • They had built in quality-of-service to solve the noisy neighbour problem,
      • And the implementation was really, really good. It didn’t just include ways of limiting the impact of bully workloads, it could also guarantee a minimum level of performance and allow short workload bursts to be managed at the same time. It was simply the best quality of service implementation on the market, by a long shot.
    • It’s built to be Automated
      • Sure it has a nice easy GUI, but if you had anyone who was interested in implementing automation, then any task you do on the GUI would probably only need to be done once. Every time you do something on the GUI, you can see it and copy/paste the REST API calls made to the array which determined the action. This process makes integration into any DevOps/Automation tool extremely easy.
    • It’s architecture is really solid.
      • Thanks to the benefits of a scale out architecture, it has similar abilities to ONTAP where you can add and remove nodes as well as replace drives, all without disruption. Further to this, it also completely automates the rebuild process. Not just for disks in a RAID set, (although technically it doesn’t use traditional RAID), but for entire controllers. With their shared-nothing scale-out, there wasn’t even the concept of a “Failover” event.
    • It has great storage efficiency features
      • Fine-grained inline global dedup and thin provisioning, two pass compression, snapshots, clones… All the boxes where checked.

    Not only did they cover four of the major strengths of All Flash FAS, but they were built from the ground up. They were not just for flash, but more importantly for cloud service providers and for people who wanted to build datacentres the same way cloud service providers do. They also received a lot of attention from the industry and press, with Gartner giving them the top spot in their analysis for solid state arrays for the last couple of years.

    The traditional vendors, with their shelves of disks shared between a couple of controllers, I could easily match with All Flash FAS, or EF Arrays. This competitor however, was going to be a bigger challenge.

    New allies

    That competitor was of course, Solidfire, so it was a big relief when I heard that we had decided to bring them into NetApp. They’ve got a great team who understand not just about flash technology, but more importantly, how to turn the technical advantages of flash into a business advantage for their customers.

    I’m looking forward to working with Solidfire as we merge the two businesses, but of course, this doesn’t mean that I’ll stop talking about the benefits of All Flash FAS, or E-Series. NetApp has grown beyond a “one size fits all” approach to helping customers. If a customer needs speed, density and price performance, then an EF5600 simply can’t be matched. If a customer is looking to consolidate and simplify their existing IT infrastructure and extend it into the hybrid cloud, then All Flash FAS is still going to be their best fit. But if a customer is looking to build a scalable and automated next generation datacentre, I’ll be bringing along my new friends from Solidfire every time.

    Register now for our Geek Out! on SolidFire webcast.
    Thursday 31st March 2016
    11:00AM AEDT