NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) Review

A lot of data flexibility and mobility for moving workloads around


What is our primary use case?

We use it primarily for CIFS and NFS shares, e.g., Windows shares and network shares for Linux-based systems.

How has it helped my organization?

It has been very helpful for us. Data mobility is big. Being able to move data between different locations quickly and easily. This applies to data protection and replication. The hardware architecture has been very good as far as easily being able to refresh environments without any downtime to our applications. That's been the biggest value to us from the NetApp platforms.

The solution simplifies IT operations by unifying data services across SAN and NAS environments on-premise.

We are working on a lot of efforts right now where environments need multiple copies of data. Today, those are full copies of data, which require us to have a lot of storage. Our plans are that you'll be able to leverage NetApp Snapshot technology to lessen the amount of capacity that we require for those environments, primarily like our QA and dev environments.

We've done full data center migrations. The ease of replication and data protection has made moving large amounts of data from one data center to another completely seamless migrations for us.

What is most valuable?

  • Simplicity
  • Their storage efficiency
  • Compression
  • Deduplication
  • Compaction
  • The ease of being able to move data around.

What needs improvement?

Early on, the clustered architecture was a little rough, but I know in the last four years, the solution has been absolutely rock solid for us. 

Something I've talked to NetApp about in the past is going more to a node-based architecture, like the hyper-converged solutions that we are doing nowadays. Because the days of having to buy massive quantities of storage all at one time, have changed to being able to grow in smaller increments from a budgetary standpoint. This change would be great for our business. This is what my leadership would like to see in a lot of things that they purchase now. I would like to see that architecture continue to evolve in that clustered environment.

I would like to see them continue to make it simpler, continuing to simplify set up and the operational side of it. 

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I can't remember the last time we had an issue or an outage.

It is one of the best solutions out there right now. It is extremely simple, reliable, and seldom ever breaks. It's extremely easy to set up. It's reliable, which is important for us in healthcare. It doesn't take a lot of management or support, as it just works correctly.

Our NetApp environment has been fairly stable and simple that we don't have a lot of resources allocated to support it right now. For our entire infrastructure, we probably have three engineers in our entire enterprise to support our entire NetApp infrastructure. So, we haven't necessarily reallocated resources, but we already run pretty thin as it is.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability has been great. There have been some things I would like to see them do differently, but overall, the scalability has been wonderful for us.

The solution’s thin provisioning has allowed us to add new applications without having to purchase additional storage. We use thin provisioning for everything. We use the deduplication compression functionality for all of our NetApps. If we weren't using thin provisioning, we'd probably have two to times more storage on our floor right now than we do today.

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

We use all-flash arrays for our network shares. We have a couple of other platforms that we also have used in the past. I really wanted to move away from those for simplicity. Another big reason is automation. NetApp has done a great job with their automation The Ansible modules along with all the PowerShell command lists that they have developed, make it very consumable for automation, which is very big for us right now. That was one of the big driving forces is having a single operating environment, regardless if I'm running an all-flash array or hybrid array. It's the same look and feel. Everything works exactly the same regardless. That definitely speaks to the simplicity and ease of automation. I can automate and use it everywhere, whether it's cloud, on-prem, etc. That was one of the real decisions for us to decide to go that direction.

How was the initial setup?

The overall setup is very easy. Deploying a new cDOT system is the hardest part. On our business side, because our environment is very complex, there was some complexity that came up. In general, that is one nice thing about Netapp. Regardless of how simple or complex your environment is, it can fit all of those needs. Especially on the network side, it can fit into those environments to take advantage of all the technologies that we have in our data centers, so it's been really nice like that.

What about the implementation team?

We did the deployment ourselves.

What was our ROI?

The solution has improved application response time. We are using the All Flash FAS boxes of the AFS and our primary use case is around file shares. These aren't really that performance intensive. Therefore, overall, response times have improved, but it's not necessarily something that can be seen. 

From a sheer footprint savings, we're in the process of moving one of our large Oracle environments which currently sits on a VMAX array, taking up about an entire rack, to an AFF A800 that is 4U. From just the sheer power of cooling and rack-space savings, there have been savings.

I haven't seen ROI on it yet, but we're working on it.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We did RFIs with the different solutions. We were looking at a NetApp, Isilon, and Nutanix. Those were three that we were looking at. NetApp won out primarily around simplicity and ease of automation. It's the different deployment models where you can deploy in the cloud or on-prem, speaks to its simplicity. Our environment is very complex already. Anything that we can do to simplify it, we will take it.

What other advice do I have?

When you are evaluating solutions:

  • What are your goals?
  • What are your priorities? 

You will be looking at things, like cloud, automation, and simplicity, regardless of how big you are. The NetApp platform gives you all of these things in a single operating system, regardless of where you deploy.

The solution has freed us from worrying about storage as a limiting factor. I'm very confident that the NetApp platform will do what they say it's going to do. It's very reliable. I know that if there is an issue, I can quickly move that data wherever I need to move it with almost no downtime. It gives me a lot of data flexibility and mobility. In the event that I did need to move my workloads around, I can do that.

I would give it a nine out of 10. The only reason I wouldn't give it a 10 is because I would like to see some architectural changes. Other than that, its simplicity and the ability to automate are probably the two biggest things. Being able to move data in and out of the cloud, if and when we decide to do that, it gives us the most flexibility of anything out there.

We do not use this solution for AI or machine learning applications.

We are talking about automatically tiering cold data to the cloud, but we are not doing it yet.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
More NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) reviews from users
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