NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) Review

Good speed, inline deduplication, and compression and has improved the performance of our virtual machines

What is our primary use case?

We use this solution for back end storage of vSphere virtual machines over NFS.

How has it helped my organization?

This product was brought in when I started with the company, so that's hard for me to answer how it has improved my organization. I would say that it's improved the performance of our virtual machines because we weren't using Flash before this. We were only using Flash Cache. Stepping from Flash Cache with SAS drives up to an all-flash system really had a notable difference.

Thin provisioning enables us to add new applications without having to purchase additional storage. Virtually anything that we need to get started with is going to be smaller at the beginning than what the sales guys that sell our services tell us. We're about to bring in five terabytes of data. Due to the nature of our business operations that could happen over a series of months or even a year. We get that data from our clients. Thin provisioning allows us to use only the storage we need when we need it.

The solution allows the movement of large amounts of data from one data center to another, without interrupting the business. We're only doing that right now for disaster recovery purposes. With that said, it would be much more difficult to move our data at a file-level than at the block level with SnapMirror. We needed a dedicated connection to the DR location regardless, but it's probably saved our IT operations some bandwidth there.

I'm inclined to say the solution reduced our data center costs, but I don't have good modeling on that. The solution was brought in right when I started, so in regards to any cost modeling, I wasn't part of that conversation.

The solution freed us from worrying about storage as a limiting factor. In our line of business, we deal with some highly duplicative data. It has to do with what our customers send us to store and process through on their behalf. Redundant storage due to business workflows doesn't penalize us on the storage side when we get to block-level deduplication and compression. It can make a really big difference there. In some cases, some of the data we host for clients gets the same type of compression you would see in a VDI type environment. It's been really advantageous to us there.

What is most valuable?

The speed, inline deduplication, and compression are really nice. It's also just easy to manage. We use Snapshot and SnapMirror offsite, which give us some good recovery options.

The solution's data protection and management are as simple as you can hope for. On the data protection side, we have a gigabit connection to our disaster recovery center and we replicate snapshots with SnapMirror hourly. This gives us a really good way to roll things back if we need to but have everything offsite at the same time.

What needs improvement?

I really don't have anything to ask for in this regard because we're not really pushing the envelope on any of our use cases. NetApp is really staying out ahead of all of our needs.

I believe that there were firmware issues. I think it was just a mismatch of things that were going on. It could have possibly been something in the deployment process that wasn't done exactly right.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It's reliable. I don't have to lose sleep over something being wrong with the system. The few incidents we've had here and there have been resolved quickly, either by our channel partner or by NetApp support.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

As for scalability, we've added shelves in with very little effort. We're probably not what NetApp wants to see, but we've been purchasing some large six-terabyte SATA drives to expand out colder storage and just get those racked and plugged in. It's very easy to take it up and scale. We are looking very slowly at moving towards the cloud and the NetApp approach to cloud storage is way ahead of what we need, which is very reassuring.

How are customer service and technical support?

The technical support team is always easy to deal with. Fortunately I haven't had to deal with them much, but when the need arises they're good to work with.

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

That decision to got with AFF was made before me. They switched from a NetApp FAS system, which is spinning disc storage. We came over to that from a Hitachi BlueArc system that was very old. The FAS system was doing well, but when it came time to add more storage, it was obvious that the choice for flash was the way to go, specifically for virtual machines and applications. It would have been chosen for virtual machine storage and application delivery.

How was the initial setup?

I would say the initial setup was straightforward. When the stuff ships out, it comes with diagrams of how everything needs to be wired. The online resources are great to read through and the ONTAP system is consistent across platforms. Deploying AFF is less complicated than deploying older solutions.

What about the implementation team?

We do a lot of work with our partner, which is informative. They know the products well and do a great job working with us to meet our schedules and technical needs.

What other advice do I have?

I'd definitely encourage people to do a proof of concept and get trial gear in there because it's going to shine. It's something that when you actually get in there and use it, it just clicks.

I would rate this solution as a ten out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

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