NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) Review

Improved the performance of a lot of our virtual machines in a VMware environment

What is our primary use case?

We use NetApp AFF products for file storage across multiple agencies in the State of Nebraska. We are a consolidated state, so all of the agencies of our state have consolidated files on NetApp products. We use AFF as our top tier solid-state storage for application and user data storage.

How has it helped my organization?

Different customers will have different needs, e.g., when you're looking at somebody who just has simple file service needs, then it's very easy. That can be met with many different products. But, we also like that you can build SVMs with different network profiles, vLANs, security protocols, etc.

We like the ability to create different SVMs on AFF products because they can create different vLANs and network access points for different customers. We can actually drop virtual appliances onto any customer's network. If they have different firewall and network profiles than each other, we can keep all of the data completely separated.

We can also meet the different needs for different Snapshot and backup policies. A Department of Labor or Department of Health and Human Services will have very different needs from just standard user profile folders.

What is most valuable?

We like AFF because it has a very high reliability rate with very high performance. We are using it for top tier performance on application and virtual machine storage, as well as just being able to separate out SVMs for different security and network needs for all of our different customers across the state. 

We use the Snapshot feature to simplify backups for data protection. We set different policies that let let our agencies choose what backup policy they want to have for their Snapshots. It's very simple. Users can be given the opportunity to look at previous versions directly from the Windows interface or they can call/put in a ticket seeking support from our IT group if they need a larger system restore, because their data is protected with NetApp and replicated as well.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Stability is great. We haven't had to replace a single drive. We haven't had any issues with the AFFs or compatibility issues. We haven't had any problems at all. It has worked exactly the same as our previous system but with greater performance.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

In both our traditional cluster and MetroCluster, we have been able to scale very easily. We just add additional shelves of solid-state disk. They expand the storage array so we can just increase the aggregate sizes and assign more space. It's been very simple to scale.

How are customer service and technical support?

Tech support is great with NetApp if you can get past Tier 1. A lot of times when you open a new case or do a direct dial-in with an issue, like with any support, you will definitely reach a Tier 1 level that is not particularly helpful until you get escalated to an expert. However, the experts that I have reached have always been great.

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

We have several different SAN and NAS products in our environment. With the traditional spinning storage, We are running into bottlenecks with performance problems. The AFF products have given us the opportunity to move people to all-flash high performance storage tiers, which will make their virtual machines, database servers, and SQL run much better in a flash environment for us than in a hybrid or spinning disk environment.

What was our ROI?

Switching to AFF has improved the performance of a lot of our virtual machines in a VMware environment. The number of support tickets that we receive has fallen to almost zero because of this, so it's been a real help for our virtual server support team.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

We have used the solution’s thin provisioning to add new applications without having to purchase additional storage. We use thin provisioning on all of our flash arrays at this point. It gives us the choice to be able to overprovision and take advantage of compression, compaction, and thin provisioning all at the same time. We can get more out of the purchases that we make.

I would like it to be a lot less expensive, but it's been a very good solution for us.

What other advice do I have?

I would give it a 10 (out of 10). It's been solid. The performance is great. It has solved a lot of problems in our environment.

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