NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) Review

Our TCO decreased significantly by condensing arrays and reducing maintenance fees

What is our primary use case?

We use it for block storage.

How has it helped my organization?

It takes no time at all for our production instance to be snapped over to development and QA servers.

Because so many other features and products interoperate with NetApp, the IT team is able to expand our horizons and broaden our scope for future projects.

What is most valuable?

  • SnapMirror
  • SnapVault
  • FlexClone capabilities

What needs improvement?

It takes a good administrator or someone with knowledge of the product in order to manage it. That was one of the downfalls that we had with AFF. We have a lot of offshore team whom we have to spend a lot of time training to be up to speed. However, once they're up to speed, they know the product pretty well, and it seems to be okay.

The hardware is a little difficult to configure and operate. However, with the configuration and operation, you get a different nerd knobs that you can use to design and critique the environment.

For how long have I used the solution?

Less than one year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability is great. I like the capability and the upgrade functionality of all the clustered environment. We can go through and do an upgrade without worrying about any issues with the process. 

It takes a node offline, and we don't even receive an alert for that. We click a button, and it's done unlike other storage systems which are out there

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

One of the scalability problems that we've had is the amount of storage per node, as it is 600 terabytes. This still seems a little low. However, there is a compute issue with large capacity, so it's just smarter to add additional nodes into a cluster. So, the scalability is there.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support is a little lackluster. Some of the issues that we've had were opening up tickets. They seem to be routed in the wrong direction or it takes one or two days to get a call back for simple tasks. However, if we want immediate assistance, we have to open up a Severity 1 case, and sometimes it's not a Severity 1. But if we need a response back within four hours, we'll open it as a Severity 1, then once they contact us, we can drop the severity of the ticket.

Calling technical support with NetApp, you talk to ten unknowledgeable people to get one half decent person. It becomes frustrating, especially if you have an immediate need for an enterprise outage.

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

We were running into a lot of storage roadblocks that were performance based. Also, the IBM product that we were using was at the end of life for 90 percent of our enterprise.

I spent 15 years with IBM. Anytime I go into a data center, and I see Big Blue, it is the first thing that I replace.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was very straightforward, but complex. With the new clustered environment, you have to have a virtual server instance to run anything through the cluster, so you have to create a B server and a data logical interface to use block, then you create a separate lift if you want it to use files. The virtual instances have to be in place before you can actually use the product.

What about the implementation team?

I did the deployment, integration, and migration. We've done two petabytes in less than six months, and we're almost done.

The experience was great when it comes to our virtual environment. It was a very simple process. We use vMotion and it moves everything across. It is a little more painful when it comes to standalone systems and Oracle Databases, but the integrated migration product (Foreign LUN migration) that they have, once configured properly, works well.

What was our ROI?

Our TCO decreased significantly because we were paying maintenance on nine different arrays throughout the country. We've condensed those down to three arrays, and our maintenance fees from the IBM product dropped by over a half million dollars a year, saving us $500,000 USD.

We just migrated two petabytes of data storage from IBM over to NetApp All Flash. Some of the performance improvement that we've seen is 100 times I/O and microsecond latency.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

The two vendors that made it through the evaluation process were Pure Storage and NetApp. We had Pure Storage and NetApp proof of concepts. Both of them performed admirably. Pure Storage beat out on the performance, but on price per terabyte, NetApp was considerablely cheaper.

What other advice do I have?

NetApp, being the behemoth company that it is, if you're looking to have a solution provider be end-to-end when it comes to file, block, scale, and cloud, NetApp is probably the leader of the market.

Depending upon an application, provision enterprise applications could take from a day to a week. A lot of times, if it's just a simple application that we need to install, it takes an afternoon. However, incorporating it and twisting the nerd knobs and making sure that everything is operating as efficiently as possible that takes a week of deployment to make sure it's on the right tiered disk and making sure it has the right connectivity and it is on the right network. Sometimes, on our old, antiquated network environment, it takes a little bit longer.

We might connect to public cloud in the future, but we are not connect at the moment.

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