What is our primary use case?
We have been using the FAS series product, and AFF is pretty similar to the FAS products, as it still runs the ONTAP operating system. They are using AFF because that comes with all-flash disks, which gives us better performance with a smaller footprint. We use that mainly to start our block and NAS data.
How has it helped my organization?
One of the best things about the AFF products is its integration with NetApp StorageGRID, which can give you the ability of tiering to the cloud or StorageGRID. Whether it is on-prem or off-prem, tiering is the industry trend right now. One of the ways that these products help us is by using the new ONTAP version as well. They identify the cold data sitting on our main storage arrays, consuming the very expensive media and moving that to the cheaper storage tiers, whether it's on-prem, StorageGRID, off-prem on a public cloud, or a private cloud. With this integration as part of the Data Fabric, we have been able to lower some costs of storing data on-prem.
What is most valuable?
One of the main features that differentiate AFF from the FAS products, or some other technologies used, is the footprint of these arrays are significantly smaller than the traditional ones. Also, the performance that you get to these new arrays is really significant. You can see a huge difference there. By switching to it, we can achieve more storage performance and efficiency as well as in the long run lower down some of the TCOs due to reducing the footprint.
The one thing about NetApp products is they've been using the same operating system among all of their products, e.g., FAS or AFF. That feature makes it easier to manage and operate those environments because you don't really need to learn the whole new things or train all your engineers on new technology. Overall, it helps with the operations. It's not that complicated. It's easy to manage and operate.
What needs improvement?
I'm at the NetApp Insight events and seen that new features and functionality are either in the roadmap or coming. However, I think adding more features to make it more cloud enabled will help us with cloud tiering and simplify the whole cloud operations when it's integrating with our on-prem AFF products. That is one area where we would like to see more improvements from NetApp.
For how long have I used the solution?
We have been using NetApp products for a while.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
NetApp has been stable. It is one of the vendors who we trust to put our production workload on it for numerous reasons. The AFF can survive disk failure. Although, the flash disks have longer life spans, everything is redundant. We haven't experienced any significant issue with these arrays. I would call it is it's six nines. There are even more arrays when it comes to availability and stability.
How are customer service and technical support?
Every time you contact the vendor for the technical issues that you have been dealing with, the level of support you get or the time it takes for you to get your issue resolved really matters and depends on the issue itself (how complicated it is). Sometimes, the support may send some requests to the technical team to gather logs and send them back to support. How many of these logs you have to collect or if you have to engage another vendor's support come into effect when you are trying to find out how fast an issue can be resolved. In general, when you open a case with NetApp support, usually if it's a P1 or P2 case, usually they are very fast when it gets to the point that we need to escalate to the next level of support. So far, we have had a good experience with NetApp. For most cases, they were able to help us resolve the issue as fast as possible.
What was our ROI?
It has improved the application response because the array using the SSD disks are also an NVMe compatible array. We are also using the NVMe host (HBAs) because our fabric is also NVMe compatible with some of the hosts running some mission critical applications with that, AFF, and the back-end storage. We have seen good improvement in the performance of our applications.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
We've been using some other vendors products as well.
I cannot disclose the name of the vendors that we are using to compete with NetApp. In the industry today, you can't really tell if there is a bad product or good product. It comes down to your requirements. As a customer, first you have to define your requirements. Then, you need to know what you need, what is your goal, how are you going to achieve it, and what your challenges are. We identified those and have compared some solutions.
NetApp was our vendor of choice who could help us to fulfill our requirements, especially for some of the challenges that we were facing. NetApp has been able to help us with that.
What other advice do I have?
I would never give a 10 because there is always room for improvement for any technology. From zero to 10, I would give about an eight to nine to the AFF products because we have been very happy with them so far.