NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) Review

It definitely has some advantages for running database transactions. SnapMirrors will give us the opportunity to virtualize the database.


What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature is the speed. Quite frankly, we got a smoking deal on it. We like the integration with UCS. With the number of transactions we use, using NFS mounts has not proved successful in the past. AFF definitely has some advantages for running database transactions.

SnapMirroring is also valuable. Previously, we’ve just had localized storage in the servers with RAID 5 and we’d just run backups. Having SnapMirrors is going to be awesome. It also gives us the opportunity to virtualize the database. We can just snapshot the things. When one dies, rather than try to do a restore, we can just pull out the latest snapshot and let replication catch up from there.

For how long have I used the solution?

We've had it for about a year; possibly a little more. We've pretty much just done a proof of concept on it until right now. Right now, we are rolling our databases onto it.

We're using UCS for front end, and because we need the speed, we're spinning up databases with all the data on AFF.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I believe it will be a stable solution. I realize we're going to lose disks over time. That's the nature of SSDs. They’re are getting better, and I presume they are going to get better in the future. With our support for spinning disks in the past – we have very little monitoring – basically, the filer tells us, “Hey, you’ve got a bad disk,” and the next day the disk shows up. We have spares, so we just pop a new one in. We’ve had excellent support.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

As far as I know, it will scale with us. With our databases, we're not going to need that large of a footprint. However, we have some other projects that we're testing out at this time. I believe scalability will be an issue. As far as I know, we’ll just pop more shelves in and we’ll get the scalability.

How is customer service and technical support?

Technical support is outstanding, period. They're fast. We know people there. As a matter of fact, our previous engineer is now an SC again. He came from NetApp, worked for us for about seven years and now he's back at NetApp. Our former CTO was at NetApp. I think my manager was at NetApp. If not, he was at a partner of ours. So, we have a very good relationship. When we call for support, they answer. You cannot say that about everybody.

How was the initial setup?

A lot of what we've been doing is migrating from 7-mode. We have run into some pain points. I don't know that it's necessarily NetApp's fault. A lot of it is just our inexperience. Some things we hadn't really thought of; moving the LIFs, that sort of thing. We've had some major network storms that we weren't expecting. Had we read deep enough into the documents, I think we would've found that before we tried it.

What other advice do I have?

Depending on what you're looking for, I recommend looking at FlexPod as well as AFF. Price it out with some of the other solutions that are out there. I am not that familiar with what EMC and some of the others have to say. Compare and contrast, and figure out what is it you're trying to do. I used to be in the sales role in a very large company that's not around anymore. Customers always appreciated it if when I told them, “Hey, you're overbuilding this. You're going to spend way more than you need to.” That’s my advice.

When I select a vendor to work with, I look at a little bit of everything. With reputation, obviously, NetApp has the leg up there. We have a deep and longstanding relationship with them. When new vendors come along, we like transparency. We’ve had people come in and say, “Oh, we have this solution. It’ll butter your toast and fix all your problems, all at the same time,” and clearly that's not the case.

We had a vendor come in one time that was going to do quite a bit with our databases until they saw the size of our database. They very politely said, “Well, we can’t scale to that.” We thanked them, and I appreciate that kind of honesty. Obviously, we didn't do business with them, but later on down the road, if they came in and said, “We have a solution now,” I am more inclined to listen to that.

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