NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) Review

Easy to use and has a good support team, but it is expensive and the hardware compatibility could be improved

What is our primary use case?

Our primary use case for this solution is machine learning.

How has it helped my organization?

The performance of NetApp AFF allows our developers and researches to run models and their tests within a single workday instead of spreading out across multiple workdays.

For our machine learning applications, the latency is less than one millisecond.

The simplicity of data protection and data management is standard with the rest of NetApp's portfolio. We leverage SnapMirror and SnapVault.

In my environment, currently, we only use NAS. I can't talk about simplifying across NAS and SAN, but I can say that it provides simplification across multiple locations, multiple clusters, and data centers.

We have used NetApp to move large amounts of data between data centers, but we do not currently use the cloud.

Our users have told me that the application response time is faster.

The price of the A800 is very expensive, so our data center costs have not been reduced.

We are using ONTAP in combination with StorageGRID for a full data fabric. It provides us with a cold-hot tiering solution that we haven't experienced before.

Thin provisioning has allowed us to over-provision existing storage, especially NVMe SSD, the more expensive disk tier. Along with data efficiencies such as compaction, deduplication, and compression, it allows us to put more data on a single disk.

Adding StorageGRID has reduced our TCO and allows us to better leverage fastest NVMe SDD more, hot tiering to that, and cold tiering to StorageGRID.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable features are the ease of use and performance.

What needs improvement?

I would like to see NetApp improve more of its offline tools and utilities. Drilling down to their active IQ technology, that's great if your cluster is online and attached to the internet, with the ability to post and forward auto support, but in terms of having an offline cluster that is standalone, all of those utilities don't work. If there's a similar way to how NetApp has a unified manager, but on-premises where the user could deploy and auto support could be forwarded to that, and maybe more of a slimmed-down active IQ solution could be made available, I'd be interested in that.

I need a FlexPool to FlexGroup solution.

I would like to see the FAS and AFF platforms simplified so that the differences will disappear at some point. This would reduce the complexity for the end-storage engineers.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I would rate the stability of NetApp AFF as moderate at this point. There were some unfortunate growing paints initially with the A800. Our problem was related to compatibility issues with the active optical transceivers, and it caused an outage within our data center. Our customer was not happy with this.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The scalability is very good and we have had no issues.

How are customer service and technical support?

When we had our data center outage, we had an excellent NetApp engineer on-site. We went back and forth through it and eventually worked our way through it, but it was a multi-day problem.

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

We have been a NetApp customer for a long time. We just recently added a NetApp StorageGRID product for more object-store advantages in our data pipeline. It is adding more value.

NetApp is the number one leader in NFS, which is the protocol that we primarily use. We looked for a new solution simply because IOM3 modules were deprecated and moving forward from ONTAP 9.3 to version 9.6 required a full forklift upgrade, and a bunch of hardware was thrown out.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was complex.

The move from older FAS systems with older disk shelves to the newer AFF A800 systems is a transition that is a nightmare in terms of rack space, moving data, and trying to do it online so that the customer doesn't experience downtime. It was a multi-day upgrade.

What about the implementation team?

We used a reseller and a NetApp badged engineer, and our experience with them was very good.

What other advice do I have?

NetApp has a good support team, good account management, good engineers, and they have the ability to stay ahead of what's trending in technology.

Ideally, the cost would be lower, it would be less complex, and the hardware compatibility would be better.

I would rate this solution a seven 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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