NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) Review

It provides the simplicity of having a pool of storage and not worrying about issues such as IOPS, the number of disks, or carving up aggregates.

What is most valuable?

For me, the most valuable feature is the simplicity of being able to have a pool of storage and not worry about: How many IOPS do I need? How many disks? Or carving up aggregates. Everything can just share. I can just go with the simple features of the GUI to allocate storage quickly and not worry about anything.

What needs improvement?

The management tools with NetApp really need improvement, in general; just giving good, simple tools for evaluating performance and performance headrooms, and seeing where you're about to run into things. ONTAP 9 seems to be taking steps in that direction, from what I've seen of it. This is my first ONTAP 9 system. I think they're making progress there. Until I have some more problems with the system and see how the tools serve me, I can't really give better insight on that.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using it for about a month.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

So far, it has been very stable; no downtime. We had some random error messages but no downtime issues; just getting used to the new ONTAP 9.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It looks like it will meet the company’s scaling needs moving forward. We don't have a high-performance need out there, so it's more about a simple solution than scalability, in this particular case. So far, it looks like it'll meet our needs.

How is customer service and technical support?

We found NetApp support to be a mixed bag. Sometimes, it's real good; sometimes, it's real bad. It can take a while to get things escalated to the people you need it escalated to. I'm not terribly different from most of the industry, I'm sure.

We get our support through Datalink. We have to go through Datalink first and then get escalated to NetApp support. It adds another layer there, but costs a lot less.
For this project, the support has been pretty good. So far, I’m happy with how it's going.

How was the initial setup?

It's a simple setup. What we spent our implementation time on was getting the fiber channel LUNs presented to the host; that went really well. The problem is, we need to configure it in Wisconsin and then we shipped it across an ocean and had some non-IT people install it into a rack and turn it on. That was the complexity. We all added it ourselves. With that said, because it was a simple, one-shelf system, they were able to get through it and get it done. There was one cable that wasn't connected right. Support helped me track that down, and then I had them go plug it in right. They turned the connector upside down and then it worked; what a shock...

For this install overall, for NetApp's part, it was simple; we have the complexity.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We looked at Hewlett Packard, EMC, a Nutanix solution, and probably a couple more I can't remember. Nutanix had been way out there; just a totally different way of doing it.

What other advice do I have?

When selecting a vendor to work with, for whether or not we talk to them, I think we look at those things like reliability and reputation.

As far as who we choose, once we've got that process started, it tends to be the vendors that are willing to work with us in the sales process and give us lots of answers; give us lots of demos. We like to get a feel that they actually understand what we need; that the tech teams and the local teams that we're working with are capable of understanding what is going on technically; and they're not just fly by night: "They've been working here for three months and now they're going to move on." We try to figure out whether they have capable folks in the field. Does the sales team care enough about us to make a deal versus just saying, "Here's a price. You can take it or leave it."?

Unfortunately, we don't have budget, so a lot of our decisions do come down to dollars. We spend a lot of time looking for teams that can do both. Who's going to come in cheap, yet still give us all that personal attention and support, and feel like they're going to be partners with us in the process, rather than just a reseller that's going to kick us over to support? We want people who are invested in making us successful, and not everyone's willing to do that.

We needed something that could do multiple protocols. We had a need out there for CIFS and NFS and fiber channel storage. NetApp was one of the few vendors who has a solution that's capable of handling all that and is easy to use.

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