NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) Review

We can spin up VMs quickly and FabricPool enables me to extend hyperscaler storage

What is our primary use case?

We are a multi-cloud provider and we use NetApp All Flash as the base for providing the cloud services.

How has it helped my organization?

It gives us the power and agility to spin up VMs as quickly as possible.

We have also standardized on NetApp. All the storage that we have for our services runs on NetApp. Being standardized, it's easy for our Operations. We can train them on a single platform.

It helps improve performance for enterprise applications, data analytics, and VMs. With the power of flash, we moved from a traditional hybrid storage to all-flash. Having the full-fledged power of flash, and the controllers, it has doubled the performance compared to what we used to get.

Finally, our total cost of ownership has decreased by approximately 10 - 12 percent.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature is the efficiencies that all-flash brings. It helps us reduce costs and be competitive in the market. It's quite easy to operate and monitor, to do business as usual.

Whatever they talk about it delivers. It's fast, it's efficient, it's agile.

With the new version, they have the FabricPool which works for me. I can extend the hyperscaler storage. The features we require today are present in ONTAP.

What needs improvement?

It would be great if they had a single pane of glass or a single dashboard where all the NetApp ecosystem storages could be viewed and monitored simply. That would help my Operations.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Being a service provider, we cannot afford any downtime. It's working fantastically as of now. It's sturdy and just rocking.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It's an all-flash so you just add more clusters, nodes, and you're done. Scalability isn't an issue. That was one of the evaluation criteria, we needed something that would scale out.

How are customer service and technical support?

Tech support is not just for AFF, we have a long-standing relationship with NetApp. Overall, the support guys are very proactive. They help us with new fixes and patches - we keep up with them. We have a very good relationship.

We haven't really had much of a need to escalate issues. We don't actually get into "escalation mode." We just talk with senior management and things get done. We're happy with the support.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We did not have any other flash solution. We were running a tiered storage approach but because of market demand, where our customers wanted efficient performance, agile cloud storage, that is what drove us to evaluate the newer technologies. With all the technical evaluations we did, we settled on All-Flash.

We chose NetApp because we had the SolidFires in place and we already had the standardization. We also went with NetApp because of the partnership and the support that we get from NetApp. In addition, it proved that it was technically better than the competitors in the benchmarks.

How was the initial setup?

I was involved in the technical and commercial analysis, but not in the actual environment setup. That was taken care of by another team. The initial setup was straightforward but there was definitely a lot of planning that went into getting it deployed smoothly.

Being a services provider, every customer has unique requirements, which makes it more complex for us. We took a good amount of time to understand, evaluate, and come up with a proper deployment plan so we wouldn't get into trouble at the deployment phase.

What about the implementation team?

We had an in-house team do it.

What was our ROI?

I haven't calculated ROI because, being into the OpEx model, since we're providing serivces, typically the ROI is 36-plus months. We're not there yet.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated Nimble, 3PAR, Dell EMC. 

What other advice do I have?

You should definitely look at NetApp AFF and evaluate it.

In terms of how long it takes to set up and provision enterprise applications using AFF, we have a back-end provisioning tool so it's all automated. I cannot define it only with respect to AFF because the entire orchestration works. But on average, we take about five minutes to provision a VM.

I would rate the solution at eight out of ten. It has definitely helped us bring our costs down and gives us a powerful storage at the back end to serve our customers. It would be a ten out of if they brought my TCO down even more.

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