NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP Review

Easy to manage with good storage optimization but the cloud deployment needs to be improved

What is our primary use case?

The primary use case is for files, VMware storage, and the DR volume on the cloud. They also use this solution to move data between on-premises and the cloud volume ONTAP.

How has it helped my organization?

It's difficult to say if it has helped to reduce the company's data in the cloud right now without running it for a while. It's the same for the cloud costs.

We are going through testing right now, and can't tell if it will affect their operations until we validate it.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable features are the ease of management, the deduplication, storage optimization, SnapMirror, it has flexible in testing for different scenarios, rapid deployment of the test environments, and rapid recovery.

The fast recovery time objective with the ability to bring the environment back to production in case something happens.

The ability to go back in time. It's easy to restore the data that we need and it has good stability with CIFS. When a client is using CIFS to access their files, it is pretty stable without knowing Microsoft issues.

The simplicity and ease of usage for VMware provisioning are also helpful.

What needs improvement?

Some of the area's that need improvement are:

  • Cloud sync
  • Cloud Volume ONTAP
  • Deployment for the cloud manager

These areas need to be streamlined. They are basic configuration error states to acquire late provisioning.

I would like to see the ability to present CIFS files that have been SnapMirrorroed to the Cloud Volume ONTAP and the ability to serve them similarly to OneDrive or Web interfaces.

We are talking about DR cases, customers who are trying to streamline their environments. In the case of DR, users can easily access that data. Today, without running it as file services fully and presenting it through some third party solution, there is no easy way for an end-user to access the appropriate data. This means that we have to build the whole infrastructure for the end-user to be able to open their work files.

The integration wizard requires a bit of streamlining. There are small things that misconfigure or repeat the deployment that will create errors, specifically in Azure.

As an example, you cannot reuse that administrator name, because that object is created in Azure, and it will not let you create it again. So, when the first deployment fails and we deploy for a second time, we have to use a new administration name. Additionally, it requires connectivity from NetApp to register the products and the customer is notified that Network access is not allowed, which creates a problem.

This issue occurs during the time of deployment, but it isn't clear why your environment is not deploying successfully. For this reason, more documentation is needed in explaining and clarification steps of how it needs to be done.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We are just validating the cloud for a couple of our clients, so we haven't had it affect our client storage operations.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability remains to be seen. At this time the NetApp limits on the levels of premium, standard, and the basic one are unreasonably incorrect.

It is hard to go from ten terabytes to three hundred and sixty-eight terabytes and leave everyone in between there hanging. Nobody is interested in going with the limit of ten terabytes to test this solution.

I am talking specifically about Azure, Cloud Volume ONTAP and the differentiator between three levels of provisioning storage.

How are customer service and technical support?

I have used technical support and it's mediocre.

They gave their best effort, however, at the point they couldn't figure out the problem, they simply said that we would have to deal with Professional Services. I was not impressed, but I understand that it is a new product.

How was the initial setup?

It can be straightforward if everything is perfect, but if there are any glitches on the customer's side then potentially it could require long-term troubleshooting without knowing where to look for the problem.

We have deployed on-premises, but currently, we are testing it on cloud volumes.

For the initial deployment, I used the NetApp file manager to get it up and running.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

When it comes to choosing the right solution for our clients, they trust our judgment in recommending something that they know is going to work for them. 

Most of our clients are looking for availability in disaster recovery data and centralizing it into one cloud location. In some cases, a customer doesn't want to go with multiple clients, they want to have it all in one place. They are also looking for simplification in management of the entire solution, provisioning, managing copywriting from a similar interface and a company that can be responsible for the support.

Our customers evaluate other vendors as well. They have looked at AWS, several from Veeam, and partners from ASR for different replication software.

Customers decide to go with NetApp because of our recommendations.

I have experience with other application services including Commvault, Veeam, and ASR.

What other advice do I have?

If Snapshot copies and FlexClones are licensed they work great. The challenge is that the client will not always get the FlexClone license, then it is more difficult to provide it in the future.

Some of our older clients do not have a license for FlexClone, so the recovery of snapshot data can be problematic.

In some cases, they use inline encryption using SnapMirror, but not often.

Inline encryption addresses concerns of data security, as well as using Snapshot. If it is encrypted and it's not near encrypted traffic, then it has less chance of being accessed by someone.

I don't work with application development, so I can't address whether or not snapshot copies and Flexcone affect their application, but for testing environments where we have to update with batches made for maintenance, yes, it allows you to provision, to test, and it validates the stability of the testing and updates releases.

The clients included me in the decision making.

Each has its pros and cons, but with NetApp, this is a NetApp to NetApp product. With Windows backup solutions, it can be from any storage platform to any cloud also. In different ways, they have different workflows with different approaches, but you know each of them is meeting with its business objective, giving you a good balance.

My advice would be to try it first, figure out all of the kinks that might come up, have the proper resources from NetApp lined up to provide you support, and don't give up because it works in the end.

I would rate this solution a six 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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