Azure NetApp Files Review

Simple to learn and use, but the technical support is in need of improvement

What is our primary use case?

We have implemented Azure NetApp Files in our lab, and we have tested the NFS and CIFS protocols. We are looking for the multi-protocol approach, where the clients can leverage both protocols to access files, whether they are using Windows or Linux. Once we have this, and the data protection is in place, will we begin using this solution internally.

How has it helped my organization?

One of the benefits that I saw was that the administrators are hands-off, and don't have to worry about disk replacements. All we care about is creating volumes and giving our clients access to those volumes. This functionality is critical because we are a very lean team, and it gives us back a lot of cycles.

In terms of seeing a performance increase, I would not say that this is our use case. We are concerned with functionality at this time. Traditionally, the way we see it, if we want more performance then we keep it local because we see the price point going up when cloud applications need higher performance. As of now, we don't have any applications that require that kind of performance in the cloud.

The scale-up and scale-down capabilities of the solution provided flexibility in both capacity and performance. In terms of operations, this solution has given us a lot of cycles back. We don't have have to deal with the scheduling and the data center folks when it comes to things like third-party disk replacement. It is hands-off.

I would say that ease of use is one of the highest items because it doesn't matter if I'm there in the company or not, tomorrow somebody else might come in and for that person, the learning curve is very linear. They will be able to pick it up in, probably, a couple of days and it's not a lot to learn. It's very intuitive when we are using Azure NetApp Files.

We have only done preliminary testing with dynamic resizing, but I would say that it has not saved us time.

At this point, using NetApp Files has not given us the opportunity for new use cases.

Features are being added to this product at a very slow pace, and they should be speeding that up and being a little more aggressive.

What is most valuable?

The critical features of this solution are SnapMirror for replication, data protection, and SnapLock.

Replication is important to us because we are a financial company, and we would like to have a second copy of the data available to use no matter what. Whether we are running on-premises or in the could, we would like to have it available in a different region.

The data protection is important because regardless of the disaster recovery, we were running into a situation where the data is corrupted in both locations. 

SnapLock is used for WORM files, where they are locked for a certain amount of time and nobody will be able to delete them. It is SEC compliant, which is important because we cannot put data onto these systems until the FINRA or SEC compliance is there.

This solution is intuitive, easy to learn, and easy to use.

What needs improvement?

We would like to be able to replicate data to different regions as soon as possible.

The data protection piece is missing.

We would like to have backup functionality built-in so that we don't run into the issue where the replication process makes a copy of the corrupted data.

Technical support needs to be improved.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We trust the stability of this solution. We have been using ONTAP for probably a decade and we trust the code. This is basically the UI that is changing, and we believe that everything else under the covers is still there, operationally.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

NetApp Files is definitely scalable. However, to what extent and what price point is something that is yet to be seen for us.

How are customer service and technical support?

We do not have to pay NetApp for support, but at the end of the day, we still have to have support, regardless of the product. So, either way, we pay NetApp or Microsoft so it doesn't matter. We still need support for the product.

On a scale of one to five, I would rate the technical support a two. There are very few people who understand this technology inside NetApp. If you need to have an answer on a specific question then you need to go to the right people, which means that you have to know who the right people are. Otherwise, the question will be lingering around for months.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Microsoft brought this solution forward to us. Once I heard about it, I saw the value in getting our time back. That is very important for us because we are a lean group and we do a lot of things with very few people. That is one of the main drivers for implementing.

Azure's Service and support did not influence us in going with this solution.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup of this solution is very straightforward. Anybody who understands Microsoft Azure will find it pretty straightforward to create volumes or enable the licensing. It's very easy.

What about the implementation team?

I deployed this solution, myself.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Our pricing has not been determined because we are still waiting on additional features.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We do have Cloud Volume Service on AWS, which is pretty much the same, I would say. There's no difference between this solution and that one. However, Azure NetApp Files is better for us because we manage Microsoft Azure as well.

What other advice do I have?

My advice for anybody who is researching this solution is that it's a good opportunity for companies to save time on operations.

Definitely, I would recommend Azure NetApp Files over AWS because I have seen more of them, and I prefer NetApp. We have built a lot of functionality ourselves in the form of traditional, homegrown scripts. Even though the snapshot capability was not there, we had the ability to do it using scripts. It was easier, I would say. AWS has been there for a very long time so it has that benefit. It's more mature than Microsoft Azure NetApp Files, but personally, as Microsoft users, we recommend this solution.

This is a good product, but they have a couple of key elements in the works that need to be delivered within the next one or two quarters.

At this time, I would rate this solution a six out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Public Cloud

If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?

Microsoft Azure
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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