Jumping NetApp Flash


This post is definitely going to talk about the range of NetApp announcements that you may of heard today, but before I do that I want to focus on the last sentence.

Announcements you may of heard today

Now the reason I wanted to focus on that for a second, is that as I’ve mentioned previously the IT industry can be quite odd and if you take time to listen to the opinion pieces out there, then often the coverage that gets the most noise is the vendors who are either really cool… Apple for instance, or the ones who market themselves real well – you can fill in your own blanks there.

Now in many of those cases, when they market themselves well, any kind of new release of software, or a bit of a hardware refresh becomes major news, regardless of whether the thing they are doing is ground breaking or even new to the industry at all (even if it’s new to their platform). My son has a great example of this at the minute, in the new Samsung smartphone ad, where they have Rita Ora (yes i’m down with the kids) advertising how her new phone charges wirelessly on a charging plate. Brilliant innovation – well it’s not really, my son uses a  Lumia and has done for a good three years and through that entire time, his Lumia has wirelessly charged on a plate… but no fanfare or Rita Ora endorsements there.

However on the flip side of this, some companies and especially those big industry behemoths, often deliver this kind of innovation with no more than a “meh” it’s just something we do… now if you’re a user of that technology, brilliant, new features, new capabilities all for free, just delivered, but if you’re not you never know about it and only hear the noisy marketeers!

So what’s all this got to do with NetApp, well full disclosure here, I’ve worked with NetApp for around 10 years and always been a fan of their technology, even if as a company they sometimes get things wrong, the tech is always rock solid, smart and innovative – however NetApp are really really bad at telling people, hence the second sentence, and that’s a real pity, NetApp has a great set of solutions, some excellent tech, a really solid vision around how a data fabric from datacenter to public cloud can be delivered… yet nobody ever knows… and the tech press talk of a company without innovation, becoming less relevant in the industry, and all those comments are fine and those views, are views…based on what they know, but it’s a pity when marketing gets in the way of good technology.

However this week NetApp have made some really impressive updates to the latest shhhversion of their industry leading storage OS, Data OnTap. But for NetApp it is kind of one of those “meh” moments and incremental updates to their OS is just something they do, providing enterprises with a new set of possibilities doesn’t warrant a big NetApp press conference, or new product launch fanfare – it’s almost as if everyone releases news with their fingers to their lips suggesting we do a lot of shhhhh .

Well just for once i’m going to break the well held NetApp stance and wave some flags on their behalf, because these new set of announcements I believe, are pretty important for those out there delivering enterprise IT.

What’s it all about then?

IT is full of trends and one of the key ones for the storage industry is flash. Flash is a really interesting proposition in the datacentre – it’s fast, very fast and for some that’s important, and it can be relatively cheap, lot’s of new startup storage companies popping up and offering lightning quick flash at lowish prices.

But then there is the dilemma, what many of these new flash and hybrid vendors are not delivering is all of the enterprise storage facilities that we need to make sure that not only is my data fast, but it’s protected, my critical applications are fully integrated with the fast disks and I have the full set of efficiency features I expect, compression, deduplication, snapshots, thin provisioning etc.

But there’s the problem, those enterprise class vendors are offering that, but not at the right cost and those offering the price point we want are not providing the functionality we need. Dilemma indeed!

NetApp drum roll

Well that was until today – take a bow NetApp, an enterprise vendor that has recognised that customer requirement – the enterprise features you expect but at a cost point challenging the most aggressively priced of the startup all flash vendors.

What have NetApp done?

The release of OnTap 8.3.1 to power their existing all flash FAS controllers (yep these already are in the market running previous versions of OnTap – so if you have one you are getting some new goodness) provides a host of new flash based benefits, adding increased performance to some already impressive independent benchmarks (top 10 in SPC-1 performance benchmarks) but critically and the reason I wanted to call NetApp out here, was doing that without compromising any of the enterprise class functionality.

without compromising any of the enterprise class functionality

Oh yes, and I nearly forgot, all this, while dealing with the biggest of flash adoption hurdles, the price, taking this high performance all flash solution and reducing the cost by 40% taking an entry level solution to below £30K is pretty major stuff.

This isn’t some new standalone tech either, it can integrate seamlessly into an existing NetApp storage cluster, or you can build your new cluster, using not just all flash, but integrate in controllers using more traditional storage tiers if needed, but for you to manage as a single cluster, managed by a single OS, set of management tools and integrating seamlessly with your NetApp data protection suites, as well as the ability to mirror and vault the data off to alternate locations, oh and those don’t need to be all flash locations – just somewhere running Data OnTap (other controllers, software only OnTap VM’s or even straight into a hyperscale cloud).

It’s this focus on flash performance without compromising enterprise quality that I think is the most interesting to us out there looking to deliver enterprise class IT solutions.

If you want some more detail about what NetApp are bringing to the all flash party with these releases then I’ve done a separate post here providing some more technical detail, to give you a summary of some of the things you can expect from NetApp with this release;

  • High Performance
  • Consistent low latency
  • Full enterprise storage efficiency capabilities – including inline compression and deduplicaiton
  • Full enterprise software integration delivering rich data management
  • Scalability both up and out
  • Multi protocol support – connect in the way that’s best for you (FC, ISCSI, CIFS,NFS)
  • Low cost – for example VDI from ~£30 per desktop

As you can see, it’s a pretty impressive list of capabilities from a company that has already shipped 4000+ all flash controllers, so already know what they are doing and all this at some really competitive price points.

I’ve no intention of turning this BLOG into a marketing site, so hopefully you don’t think this to salesy – I wanted to make a point that sometimes some companies are really great at delivering and really rubbish at telling people, so, as flash is such an important technology for many, I thought i’d do a bit of marketing on their behalf – now just need to send NetApp my PR invoice and we’ll be good!!!

If you want a bit more tech detail on what this new NetApp announcement is about – please feel free to have a read here

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