NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) Review

Integrating it into our VMware virtual environment was very easy; it's flexible and makes DR simple

How has it helped my organization?

The big benefit is the performance increase over the previous versions and the previous systems.

Also, to be able to do things such as moving machines around, moving volumes around, the little maintenance and everyday things you need to do. The tasks become that much quicker, and that makes it that much easier to do. You're not, say, waiting for a Storage vMotion to take half an hour to run, where on an all-flash system if it takes half the time of what you were used to. That's awesome.

In addition, less time that you have to worry about troubleshooting stuff.

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

What is most valuable?

Ease of use. To integrate it into our virtual environment is very easy, the integration with VMware is very nice. I think it's better than other vendors have. It makes it easy, even for people who aren't familiar with NetApp, to use. For example, a virtual administrator or Windows administrators who just come to it and need to provision a virtual machine that could use the VSE easily, as opposed to having to know how to connect this and that, specifically.

Also, for disaster recovery, the SnapMirror; FlexClone for being able to do testing on the fly is pretty awesome. Being able to do tests very quickly, and within seconds have a clone up that you can attach to your virtual environment; and you can even have it automated, so you don't even have to do too much of the work.

To be able to have that flexibility, do testing, do failover, disaster recovery testing, and restores with snaps that are super easy.

What needs improvement?

I've definitely thought about this at earlier times, where I would probably have more stuff than I do now. The integration is pretty good.

I think there could probably be some more functionality out of like the VSC-type of plugins for the virtual environment.

The backup-type of functionality that comes from NetApp is okay, but I could see some enhancements in that regard, too.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It's definitely impressive. I haven't had a problem with the system. Been running it for about nine or 10 months now. It's stable, absolutely, 100%.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We have a smaller environment, just a two-node cluster, one our primary side and one on our secondary side. One of the benefits that NetApp brings to the table is being able to add nodes to it if you want to, if you need more storage or you need more power, more processing speed - and boom! You can just add nodes and that's it.

How is customer service and technical support?

I've used them many times. There are always some techs that are better than others, but I've found that NetApp support is better than some other vendors, even non-storage related vendors, whose tech support you have to call.

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

Which solutions did we use previously?

We mainly run virtual environments, VMware NFS. We were previously using just SATA and SaaS disk and we went to the All Flash and the performance was way better. It was a great improvement over the previous system.

We maxed out our previous system in terms of its space and also the IOPS and the actual performance we were getting out of it, as we continued to grow.

We were a small company. Our parent corporation rolled us into our own corporation, we did an IPO. Then we grew a lot from that, so we had our older system that we had previously and, as we grew, we threw more databases and the like at it. We saw the performance was definitely not able to keep up. Once we implemented the All Flash FAS, it really wasn't an issue any more.

How was the initial setup?

It was very straightforward on the setup.

The upgrade was actually very easy too. We didn't even really need to do a traditional migration when we did our "migration" to it. We didn't have to do the setup by migration tool. It was easier to set up the new cluster next to the old one, and then set up intercluster links and SnapMirror all the data over, and then just bring that volume. We did a planned failover, like we would for a disaster recovery, where you just bring up the new system, bring down the old system; that's how we did it.

Actually, we took that old system to make our disaster recovery, so we just sent that to our failover site and then we already had the data in sync too. We didn't have to do that whole process of syncing the data across the LAN, we were able to do it right next to each other on our LAN, so it was super fast, and then sent over our system, and then just resume the SnapMirrors.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We had NetApp already, so they were always a front runner, but we were looking at EMC, EqualLogic. And even, instead of having a NetApp, a different DR solution altogether, where we would have a third-party replication system that could replicate our data - instead of having another All Flash FAS or another FAS on the other side - and just relying on a different DR system altogether.

Once we took into account the easy integration of everything, and how everything worked together, and since we already had that familiarity and that comfortability with it, it was easy to decide on NetApp; the company and the product.

What other advice do I have?

Right now we just use it for file storage. We were using block and file. I'm going to be using block in the future as well.

In terms of my impression of NetApp as a vendor of high profile SAN storage, before I purchased AFF, I always liked NetApp. I was always impressed by the company in general, as a NetApp customer previously. But the All Flash FAS definitely has even increased that and enhanced my opinion of them more, based on the functionality, the new stuff in ONTAP 9. We were using an older 7-Mode system, so the transition was pretty easy; and just the overall benefits of the system and the new functionality.

We are more likely to consider NetApp for mission-critical storage systems in light of our experience with AFF because of the reliability, the ease of the failovers, and the high availability of the system.

Our most important criteria when selecting a vendor include responsiveness of the company to their customers, what they need and they want. I feel that NetApp has a very good finger on the pulse of their customer. They have good relationships with their partners and the third parties, so it is a very easy transition when dealing with NetApp partners. It makes the actual buying, and dealing with the quoting, very simple.

Also, in selecting a vendor, support is definitely an important issue; having someone to lean on if there is an issue - and when there is a mission critical issue - that you know you can rely on. It's important to have someone who is going to respond right away, so that you're not waiting for someone useful to help you.

Do as much hands-on testing as you possibly can. It's hard to test it out in the real world. The NetApp Insight conference is cool because you can see the product up close and personal, and they do demos and labs. But definitely do your research, as much as you can and pick something that works, that makes sense for your company, and organization as a whole.

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