NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) Review

Inline deduplication and compression are valuable. It's improved our tempdb access.

Valuable Features

The most valuable features are inline deduplication and compression.

Improvements to My Organization

It's enabled us to move all of our database tempdb locations to the AFF and save 70% on storage costs.

It's greatly improved our tempdb access. In our environment, we tend to use and abuse tempdb and as such moving our database tempdb locations over to that device has improved performance quite dramatically.

Room for Improvement

Beyond the setup complexity issues I’ve mentioned elsewhere, most of the things that I wanted to utilize – transparent vol migration, transparent LUN migration, reassignment of volumes from one HA pair to another – have all been solved with either cluster mode or 9.0. Those are things that we do on a daily basis.

Stability Issues

It's just as stable as any other NetApp device, that is, very stable.

Scalability Issues

We haven't done a whole lot of scaling yet in our AFF solution. However, it appears to be quite scalable and now, with ONTAP 9, you can go up to 12 SAN nodes; it's been quite dramatically increased.

Customer Service and Technical Support

In general, I have not used technical support.

Previous Solutions

I was involved in the decision to invest in the All Flash FAS. We decided to go with an all-flash solution for our ESX environment specifically because we had a business initiative to virtualize our database platform. In doing so, it was not performing as well as we would like on the spinning disk. Moving to an all-flash solution has dramatically decreased the OS latencies and increased performance of the OS, which in turn improved the performance of the overall application.

We were previously using a NetApp FAS with the 10,000-rpm SAS disks; the 2 1/2" ones, the little ones.

Initial Setup

A cluster mode setup is quite complex, generally speaking, and quite involved; not as intuitive as I would like it to be. A one-click install would be nice, something where you can just have a GUI-driven system where you put in the IPs you want to use and the interfaces you want to install them on and call it good.

Other Solutions Considered

We went to several different vendors; the two top contenders were NetApp and Pure Storage. Ultimately, we went with NetApp for a couple of reasons: 1) the scalability of the clustering system, and 2) we're already a NetApp shop and so adding on to an existing NetApp environment made it quite a bit easier, especially with replication and data management techniques that NetApp already employed. The storage grid that NetApp is deploying across the infrastructure makes transparency and migration of data from one device to another environment a lot more seamless. Whereas Pure Storage is fast, NetApp is faster and their devices are data islands. Taking a step back, we just didn't feel Pure Storage was going to work for us in the long run.

Our only experience with Pure is the demos that they brought us; nothing more than that. We talked to several of their customer bases and although they claim a lot of nondisruptive operations, they tend to be disruptive.

We've worked with NetApp and it's kind of tried and true. We do upgrades, we do hardware replacements and everything is transparent and doesn't affect the users, which is really nice, especially considering we're a software-as-a-service company. The less we can take our customers offline, the better.

Other Advice

If you've already got NetApp, you can't go wrong.

It's a fantastic system and it's solved a lot of our issues for application performance and it's probably one of the best storage systems I've worked with and yet the only reason I dock it a few points is because there's still the future. There's problems we have yet to solve, unknowns. There's always going to be issues in the future, we just don't know what they are yet, whether it's NPS storage, whether it's migration to the cloud. We have a business initiative to move to the cloud.

There are a few oddities, only because some of our systems are legacy. We have the 7-mode system, which is our primary platform, and moving to the cloud is a little bit painful for that system. You have to spin up the 7MTT tool to get it to transfer the data and the 7MTT tool was not designed with cloud in mind. It was designed for migration of a 7-mode system to a cluster mode system within the same environment. When you're trying to move it from one environment to another environment to a different site with a whole new IP scheme with a whole new infrastructure, it's just a little bit on the kludgy side. There are things that don't make a lot of sense on that front. For example, it limits SnapMirrors to four per cloud ONTAP instance. We want more than that. We want hundreds. By default, the cloud instance is supposed to support 50 and yet we can only do four with the 7MTT.

The most important criteria for me when selecting a storage vendor to work with are going to be speed, reliability and support. The better the support is, the easier they are to work with, the more likely we are to choose them.

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