NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP Review

Gives us great control over our data, allowing us to choose in which AWS regions we put our offsite data

What is our primary use case?

We use NetApp for our on-premise file shares, and we use Cloud Volumes ONTAP as an offsite backup copy.

How has it helped my organization?

Being able to deploy in AWS is a big advantage for us. The company I work for was recently spun off as a smaller company. We sold most of our company to a large company and all of our assets went to that company. Then we started building our first data center and we did not have a second data center for our outside copy. This was a great solution in these circumstances.

In general, NetApp provides unified storage, but we mostly use it only for NAS. It gives us great control over our data. We can define which region or zone we put our data in, in AWS. That way, we can strategically place our offsite copies. Instead of putting everything in one place, we now have more freedom to put data wherever we want.

We are also saving at least $100,000 a year on storage costs.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable features are 

  • tiering to S3 
  • being able to turn it on and off, based on a schedule.

These are valuable because of the effect on cost. All of the data that is stored in AWS is, obviously, very expensive if stored in EBS volumes or spinning disks, but it's pretty cheap in S3, so that makes good financial sense. 

For the shutdown and startup, it's the same thing. Since it's a backup copy, we don't need that filer running all the time, so we just shut it down. We only turn it on before the replication starts, and then shut it off after the replication is complete.

What needs improvement?

One area for improvement is monitoring. Since we are using turn-on and turn-off, based on a schedule, it becomes a little bit difficult to monitor the instance and the replications, etc. If NetApp could implement a feature to monitor it more effectively, that would be helpful.

Also, I would like to see more aggressive management of the aggregate space. On the Cloud Volumes ONTAP that we use for offsite backup copies, most of the data sits in S3. There are also the EBS volumes on the Cloud Volumes ONTAP itself. Sometimes what happens is that the aggregate size just stays the same. If it allocates 8 terabytes initially, it just stays at 8 terabytes for a long time, even though we're only using 20 percent of that 8 terabytes. NetApp could undersize that more aggressively.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP for about one-and-a-half years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

In all the time we've been running it we have had no issues. It's great.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We are not using it at that big of a scale, so right now we do not have any concerns. It's limited to 360 terabytes. In the past, before we sold 80 percent of our company to that large company, we used to have more than 360 terabytes of data. If we still had all that data we would have to build another instance of Cloud Volumes ONTAP. Or, post-sale, if we were to cross that limit we could have to build another instance of Cloud Volumes ONTAP, but we're not there yet. We are using about 25 percent of that limit right now.

How are customer service and technical support?

Overall, their support team is great. One of the best features about Cloud Volumes ONTAP is that once you open the OnCommand Cloud Manager, there's a tiny chat button at the bottom. You can just send a message to all the experts related to Cloud Volumes ONTAP. That's a great feature.

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

We used to use two NetApp filers in two different data centers for offsite backup copies. We decided to go with Cloud Volumes ONTAP because after we sold 80 percent of the company, we were left with only one data center. We did not have a second data center to put the second NetApp in, so we went with this solution. It was the perfect solution for our use case.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup of the solution, in our case, was a little bit complex because we use Terraform to manage our cloud infrastructure. To configure Cloud Volumes ONTAP in combination with Terraform proved a little bit challenging. That's one of the areas for improvement of the solution: NetApp could provide customers with templates of how to manage this infrastructure as a code. The difficulties we encountered were mostly in terms of what components need to be configured in Terraform, as well as how they could be configured.

Overall, our deployment took about a month. We didn't really have a deployment plan for this solution because this was the first time we were deploying it. We had to make it up as we went along, especially because NetApp did not have any documentation on how to implement this using Terraform. We had to come up with that plan.

What about the implementation team?

We did not hire anyone, but the NetApp support team was great. It is just me working on this, in our company.

What was our ROI?

This is more of a pay-as-you-go model rather than an investment, but we definitely see benefits. If we had to build another NetApp in our on-premise location, whether we used the storage or not, we would just be spending money. The asset would just depreciate, whereas, in the cloud, we only use what we need and we just pay for what we use.

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

Licensing seems pretty straightforward and then we just pay for the EC2 costs.

Pricing brings up another point in terms of room for improvement. If they could provide some insights into how we could optimize the cost of Cloud Volumes ONTAP in our cloud, that would be great.

There are no additional costs to the standard licensing fees. It's the same as what they showed us in the initial deployment.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We did not evaluate other solutions because we use on-premise NetApp. NetApp works best with NetApp.

We did look at other solutions just to see how they were working, but back then, when we were implementing it, they were nowhere even close to as mature as NetApp. We looked at the Dell EMC Isilon but it was not even close to what NetApp was capable of in the cloud. They were not even close to building something in AWS at that point. It was an easy decision.

What other advice do I have?

Be careful while choosing the instance size, and manage the aggregate size as carefully. Otherwise, you'll just end up paying a lot of money. The biggest lesson I have learned from using this is exactly those two things. I noticed that I need to size the instance carefully, and I need to make sure that the EBS volume sizes that I use are not too underutilized.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Public Cloud

If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?

Amazon Web Services (AWS)
**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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