NetApp EF-Series All Flash Arrays Review

We're able to throw a pile of IOPS at it and it will handle it without much issue.

How has it helped my organization?

I can be less proactive about monitoring it. We don't have to mess with tweaking it as much. On the production SAN, for instance, we're always on there, monitoring performance, checking how it's doing. Whereas with the EF, because there's only one thing running on it, it runs so fast, we just let it go. We had to monitor previous solutions more; it's not that there was ever really a problem.

What is most valuable?

One of the most valuable features is the overall performance it provides. You're able to throw a pile of IOPS at it and it will handle that without much issue.

We had a beefy SQL server that was trying to pull a large number of transactions all the time and it was causing problems on our production SAN environment. They wound up deciding they wanted to go with EF specifically for that and haven't had any problems ever since.

What needs improvement?

I'm a big fan of the cluster shell and everything on the FAS series. I know the E series kind of has its own OS. (I think NetApp purchased them.) To my knowledge, that doesn't even exist in the same way. A lot of that is to provide the IOPS that it does because it doesn't have to focus on all that other stuff. From a manageability perspective, I like the look and the feel of the FAS series better than the EF. I think it's more straightforward and simplistic. Even if it's not to that extent, I would like to see it move a bit more in that direction; a little more manageability, a simpler management interface. It's not necessarily that it's way overly complex. It's just that it's not as easy as the FAS series.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Reliability has been really good.

No problems with stability; every upgrade we've ever done went off without a problem. We were able to do it live to the failover.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We've never tried to scale it because the size of it's been good, so I wouldn't really know.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support depends on the issue. Sometimes, it was really good; other times, it was a struggle. Eventually, we always wound up with somebody who was really knowledgeable and helpful.

One time, we had a problem with a LIF on our FAS 8060s. One of the Vservers was causing intermittent problems. The guy on the phone was adamant that it was not a NetApp issue. After about three hours of working with him, we finally just decided to hang up. I did some other testing, called him back with proof that it was NetApp and then it took about five minutes to solve. They said, “Oh well, just do this, there we go.”

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

They were already using EF when I started.

I have not previously used a solution other than the FAS series.

What other advice do I have?

Plan out everything ahead of time. Have your fabric in place. We've had times before, where that was an oversight. It was never thought of in terms of getting networking fabric set in. Then, whenever we'd bring in the NetApp solution to plug in and the fabric's not there, then you get these long delays. Make sure you know everything that's going to be needed and have it in place ahead of time.

When I look for a vendor to work with for EF or any similar solutions, for me, the most important factors are honesty, prompt response, willing to work with us, a general feeling like that they care about our company and our needs, and not just about the sale. Without that, it's difficult to trust them or work alongside them.

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