NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) Review

Extremely stable systems with solid performance and big scalability possibilities


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What is our primary use case?

The primary use case that we have for NetApp's All Flash FAS is for on-premise storage that we've used for presenting LANs, NFS, and SIF shares for servers for analytics and ESX data storage.

How has it helped my organization?

NetApp AFF has improved our organization through the use of clusters. Previously we had migrated from Dell EMC and we had a lot of difficulties moving data around. Now, if we need to move it to any slower storage, we can move it with just a vault move within the cluster. Even moving data between clusters is extremely simple using SnapMirror. The mobility options for data in All Flash FAS have been awesome. 

AFF has given us the ability to explore different technology initiatives because of the flexibility that it has, being able to fit it in like a puzzle piece to different products. For example, any other solutions that we've looked at, a lot of times those vendors have integration directly into NetApp, which we haven't found with other storage providers and so it's extremely helpful to have that tie-in.

This solution has also helped us to improve performance. We have hybrid arrays as well so that we can have things that are on slower storage. For the times that we need extremely fast storage, we can put it on AFF and we can use V-vaults if we need to to have different tiers and automatically put things where they need to be. It's really helped us to nail down performance problems when we need it to put them in places to fix them by just having the extreme performance.

Total cost to ownership has definitely dropped because with deduplication compression and compaction always on, we're able to fit a whole lot more in a smaller amount of space and still provide more performance than we had before. Our total cost per gigabyte ends up being less by going to All Flash.

What is most valuable?

Some of the most valuable features of All Flash are the speed, integration with vCenter, being able to clone VMs instantly, and the ability to move data around quickly.

The user experience with AFF is much like others of NetApp's products: fantastic. It's extremely familiar. It's very intuitive. We can find all of the features that we're looking for through the GUI. The CLI is tap complete so that if we aren't exactly sure what the syntax is for a command, we can just tap-complete it which makes it a lot easier than having to look up every single thing that we're trying to do and the way to do it.

Our use case for AFF with the public cloud is that it allows us burst ability so that when we need additional capacity and speed instantly, especially if we need more and we haven't bought new nodes yet, it allows us to burst into the cloud quickly. 

The setup and provisioning of enterprise apps depend a lot on the automation, which has had really fantastic integration, just for being able to use things like WFA for provisioning. It has sped things up with the extra software that NetApp provides to be able to speed things along.

What needs improvement?

NetApp's always got their eye on new features and new use cases for things before we even get to them. It's been pretty amazing that they'll come out with new features, and we haven't even been thinking that this is a way that we might be able to use this in the future. I've been really excited about some of their other products, like SnapCenter, which is fantastic. We are also interested in the single pane of glass to be able to do snapshots and backups for anything in our environment, as long as it involves NetApp.

As for AFF itself, I don't have any suggestions of what I would be excited to see. I think that adding the support for the rest of APIs to AFF would be super handy. I think it's something that we've been waiting for for a while which would be fantastic.

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Stability's fantastic. In the past, I've seen problems with ONTAP where we'd hit bugs and things. Since NetApp has changed their development schedule to every six months with a lot more scrutiny on their code, and a lot more checking of their code before they include it, we've hit far fewer bugs. We've also had extremely stable systems with solid performance.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The scalability's fantastic. Many times we have had to add capacity which included the compute power and the storage. We've just added HA pairs to the cluster and it's extremely easy to migrate over to those. You can just do vault moves to get over to the new nodes and then evict the old nodes from the cluster. The fact that you can scale up to 24 nodes gives you a great deal of scalability possibility.

How is customer service and technical support?

Their tech support is fantastic. NetApp is amazing with getting you through difficult problems. When you call into global support there's somebody that answers the phone quickly and they're extremely helpful. We have other NetApp resources like our sales SEs and people that help us out. There's always somebody there to point you in the right direction and help you to get the solutions to the problems you need.

What was our ROI?

There has been an amazing improvement on ROI due to racks base and power usage going to AFFs, like A700S's being so small and so efficient, take up way less space per terabyte which is a great improvement there. 

What other advice do I have?

I give AFF a ten out of ten because there are amazing features on it. It's extremely fast, it's extremely usable, and the support's fantastic. 

I would advise someone considering AFF as a possibility for storage, I would tell them to look at all the features, positives and negatives of all the other storage vendors. In the past year, I've done an evaluation of a lot of different storage vendors and their features. The cost-effectiveness of their products and NetApp have come far ahead of all the others and so don't just buy into somebody from NetApp telling you these are all the great things about it. If you research all of the other companies and all of their offerings, I have no doubt that you'll decide that NetApp is the top provider. From the speed of their product to their flexibility to move into the cloud to their awesome support.

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