NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) Review

It provides speed and performance for our transactional workloads for our databases.


Improvements to My Organization

The most valuable features are the speed and performance for our transactional workloads for our databases. We saw it in terms of our workloads for our customers for our products that demanded high-performance transactions for, specifically, our Microsoft SQL databases.

Learn about the benefits of NVMe, NVME-oF and SCM. Read New Frontiers in Solid-State Storage.

Valuable Features

The most valuable features are the speed and performance for our transactional workloads for our databases. We saw it in terms of our workloads for our customers for our products that demanded high-performance transactions for, specifically, our Microsoft SQL databases. 

Room for Improvement

I think for us, improvement would probably be the changes in how the flash is actually used inside the system and how we manage the actual disk and stripes within the system. That's what I'm being told. That's where I think the improvements will be realized in the system; how the data is compacted inside the system and realizing greater opportunities for your storage on that medium to get higher and higher disk usage inside of that. Today, I think we've been told you can get up to four-to-one ratios. We're hoping we can even realize that even higher inside those disk subsystems. Also, we're going to get more TBs of storage inside of it in terms of the 15-TB drives. We've heard 30-TB drives are on the way, maybe even the 60s and the faster adoption rates of those disk technologies, as they come through.

We're looking at probably about a three-to-one ratio right now in the environment; it's highly transactional in our databases. Four to one would be a great improvement. We think we'll be better as time goes on. We're on the early release of the 8.3 series but until the next release of ONTAP, I think it'll just continue to see improvements as it moves forward.

Scalability Issues

I did not encounter any scalability issues. How we're seeing it right now is that it's going to be very scalable in terms of architecture. It's going to be scalable within the data center because it's actually a smaller footprint for us. I think overall durability of this infrastructure will be really good as well. I think overall, it's going to reduce our operations because we're going to spend a lot less time troubleshooting performance; we’ll have a lot more time to be more forward looking in the design and implementation.

Customer Service and Technical Support

We're very happy with the support that NetApp brings to us as a company. When we challenge them with our current problems that we have or our customers that we service have, I'm very pleased with what they do for us. We have a broad scope of problems and NetApp has a broad scope of customers. That's why we chose them as our vendor.

Learn about the benefits of NVMe, NVME-oF and SCM. Read New Frontiers in Solid-State Storage.

Previous Solutions

I've been using this the whole time I’ve been with this company; this is basically everything we've run all along.

Initial Setup

I was not involved in the initial setup, just basically the attainment of the technology for our teams, for them to deploy it.

Pricing, Setup Cost and Licensing

It's expensive right now. Customers probably have different viewpoints on it. It's expensive but we think over time all the prices are going to go down. It's going to continue to be driven down as technologies for SSDs continue to be released with NVMe coming out and the adoption of that technology. Spinning media will probably be relegated to archive solutions inside of our data centers from here going forward, as we end-of-life it.

I do see prices going down; I don't think it has a choice. I think the businesses will drive it that way because I think the market will drive it that way, as you see all other companies fight the big cloud providers using SSD and driving the technology down as well.

Other Advice

If you implement AFF, find the right workload solution for what business problem you're trying to solve initially. For us, we found the problem and a solution for it. Does it help everything? Maybe not necessarily. It depends on what your application is and what you're doing. It'll help but it might not help everything. It depends on whether the price point is right to solve that problem. For us, the price point was certainly right. We're going to continue to work toward it. As we go through time, we acquired it. We've got a taste for it now. Our customers certainly do. We'll probably be buying more of it over the next 18-24 months.

We think there is a time envelope where we're going to fully adopt it, but right now we're not too aggressive with it. We think we're just aggressive enough with the implementation. I think there's going to be a curve where the decline of spinning media will occur with the uptick of SSDs in our environment. An inflection point will happen where the price per GB will hit right in the middle and it'll be advantageous for us to do just SSDs only.

When we look to work with a vendor, the important criteria are support from that company, along with the thoughtfulness of the implementation when they bring it to you and when you're bringing problems to them and they bring a solution. You're looking for them to look forward with you and address those problems or feature sets you're looking for. They brought the all-flash array out to us to address our business problems.

I think as we continue to use it and the product matures, as we realize probably ONTAP 9 and the next feature set and versions and it grows, I think it'll continue to evolve and get better and better over time.

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