NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) Review

Rendering of FAS is so much faster than what they used to be and restore is twenty times faster


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What is our primary use case?

Our primary use case for AFF is for all of the filers. We're also doing a lot of workloads for virtualization. All of our virtualization workloads are currently running on All Flash FAS.

How has it helped my organization?

We use almost all of our virtualization workloads on All Flash. Before we migrated to All Flash we used to use a different vendor for NAS solution. Some were NAS and some were Block storage. Now, logging ETLs are maybe ten times faster currently than what they used to be. We are getting amazing speeds off of FAS that we never had before.

We also use a lot of the AFF for end user storage. All the shared file systems, all the file systems that a particular user has, as a G drive, E drive, F drive or shared drives between various customers and various departments are all running off of the All Flash File system. So now, the rendering of FAS is so much faster than what it used to be. On top of that, we used to do Block. We would take Block, we would do NFS or do Samba to share those file systems for the users. Now, because they are coming straight off of NFS 3 and 4, the speed is marvelous. They are almost five to seven times faster rending all their files, saving all their files, retrieving all their files. It's amazing.

I don't know how much IT support has any bearing on All Flash File system. Now the only thing that we have provided that is better now is the speed and stability. Now if you can add that to capabilities, then, of course, IT has provided additional capabilities of having faster rendering and just getting their work done a little quicker.

The biggest workload that we have is maybe 95 to 97% of all virtual workloads are now running on All Flash. It has dramatically changed the way all of our VMs work. Now, not only they are faster but a couple of things that are in addition is that we do snaps off of our flash storage. Not only are the workloads faster but if the virtual machine goes down, the restore is 20 times faster now than it ever used to be. We don't have to go to a spin disc, we can just flash off of our flash back onto a no spin disc and the restore takes almost seconds to come back.

Total costs of ownership have two different values to them. One value is just strictly the capital cost of it. Number two is the operational cost. You've got to look at the CapEx and how much it cost. That is currently a little higher than it would be in two or three years. Now, Apex is where things are getting really nice. The maintenance is less. The discs failure are really low. Data issues or corruption is really low. The CapEx is currently high and Apex is getting to almost insignificant numbers.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable features for AFF are the speed, durability, back up, the time, the workloads that we are using currently are much faster than what they used to be. We're getting a lot of different things out of All Flash.

We have not connected our AFF to public cloud yet. We are not sure if we are going to do it because of PHI. For any healthcare, it's extremely important to safeguard the security of your patients. We are looking very deeply into how we are going to either go to public or keep some for private. Also, because data analytics is coming our way we want to make sure that the data that we are going to do analytics on is not on public cloud. Because of ingress and egress, we don't want to pay a lot of money to pull it back. We are not there yet but maybe in the next year and a half we will think about it publicly.

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Two things have happened with stability. Number one, the platform that renders the file system is so much better. It's ONTAP and NFS, they're much more superior. The stability of the file system is much better. Behind the scenes, the cache is better, the CPUs are better and of course, there are no spin discs, so it's all flash. That is way more stable than what it used to be. Coupled together, the stability is maybe six to seven hundred times better now than it used to be ten years ago. That's just the way it works now.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability is almost a catch 22. It's excellent because you can quickly scale, it's ONTAP, you can keep adding clusters without a problem, both the nodes, the controllers and of course the disc or the flash itself. The bad part about having scalability is the expense. It is currently extremely expensive, to be able to scale so fast on flash. What a lot of people are doing is that they make part of it all flash but as the data gets bigger, the archival, the older, the colder, migrate onto a slower, less expensive disc. That's what we are doing as well.

How is customer service and technical support?

So far NetApp is amazing. It depends on what type of team you have. What type of sales team that you are working with. Our sales team is phenomenal. Our support goes through them and they know all the right people to call and we get great support. Now, that is not true all across. There's great support, and there's some mediocre support. For us it's phenomenal.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup for AFF was very quick and almost painless. We had professional services come in, they put it together and before we knew, we were carving all our discs, all our LUNs, and migrating data. Of course, the data migration was also really fast for us. We used to have older infrastructure. A little less than a year ago, we got brand new infrastructure that's all flash and we migrated it less than a year ago. It was no pain whatsoever.

What other advice do I have?

I don't think anybody is doing a NAS solution or a filer solution better than NetApp. If you only talk about NetApp's filer, All Flash, I would give you it a nine and ten out of ten. It's one of the best of the breed currently in the market.

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