NetApp FAS Series Review

Resilient without disrupting the user experience and very stable

What is our primary use case?

We primarily use the solution for keeping our information reliable. In our case specifically, here at the operations location, we've got a MetroCluster for redundancy.

What is most valuable?

For us, the greatest aspect of the solution is the fact that it just runs. It is amazingly resilient. That's very important to us, because we are basically, with some exceptions, have a 24/7 operation. 

The newer features will be able to do things without interrupting the user experience, such as moving volumes on the fly, as well as adding and removing nodes to the clusters. That general set of features is pretty important to us.

What needs improvement?

The one aspect of the solution that's negative for us is also more unique to us due to the fact that we did a MetroCluster. The tiebreaker piece that does the monitoring of the two different locations, and determines if one is not talking to the network normally (or if it's truly down) is a little difficult. It feels like it was not designed from the beginning to fit well into the other pieces. It feels like it was thrown in at the last minute and it is not smooth. I've actually spoken to NetApp about that. I understand from a little bit of my research that they do have another product out. They've renamed it. I don't know how much they've changed it. I don't know if they have made that a better fitting piece or if it's just got a different name.

I still have not moved to their most recent version. I believe they have incorporated several updates that I haven't had experience with yet. I'd hate to say, "Oh, we should put it that in there," and it's already there.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have different geographical locations. The different locations probably would have a different timeline in terms of when they started using the solution. The location I am sitting at is an operations-based charter for our location and we have had the FAS type filer for probably 12 years or so.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The solution is very stable. It's quite reliable. We have it going 24/7. It doesn't crash or freeze. There aren't bugs or glitches, at least not that I have experienced. It's good.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability is not something that I would have much experience in from this location. We're a smaller site with about 1500 users. It's not something that has to be extremely scalable at our location. 

From talking to my coworkers at the larger locations, I believe that NetApp has become more scalable than they have been in the past, so they're going the right direction.

How are customer service and technical support?

The solution's technical support is outstanding. We're more than satisfied with their level of service.

How was the initial setup?

In terms of the initial setup, the migration of the MetroCluster, in particular, is more complex. 

I handle the management and maintenance of the solution myself, unless I need the assistance of a consultant.

What about the implementation team?

We had a consultant come in and help us when we went from the non-clustered MetroCluster to the clustered MetroCluster for the different versions. That was a bit more than I wanted to tackle. I brought in the NetApp consultant to do that. I would say it was more complex than straightforward overall. The consultant even noted that when he was here that this is probably not something that, as a customer, he'd want to do on his own.

The consultant was excellent. He laid out a very clear roadmap of what we were going to do and broke it into three parts so that we didn't have too much on our plates and we could make adjustments in between each part. In the end, it was pretty smooth.

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

We haven't really done anything with the leasing options that they have recently come out with. We have instead outright purchased the equipment and all of the software that we use from them. 

It doesn't seem out of the normal range for other vendors. 

I don't really have a big pro or con stance on the pricing aspect of the solution.

What other advice do I have?

We're just customers. We don't have a business relationship with NetApp.

The FAS Series itself is not as complex as a MetroCluster configuration of the FAS. I would say if you're doing the MetroCluster configuration, it's worth it to get a consultant to assist. Almost every time that I have used a consultant, I have been very glad that I made the decision to hire them. I've done the incremental migrations on my own without difficulty, however, the big changes from platform to platform in particular, and from the non-clustered on tap software version to the clustered on tap software version are more difficult to perform. It's worthwhile to get consultants in those instances.

The single FAS setup, I would say, the first time I did it, was probably the biggest learning curve. Regardless of the vendor, I would probably recommend having a consultant come in for the first time you're learning all the ins and outs of the solution. After that, the migration for the individual FAS and non MetroCluster FAS seems to be very manageable if you've got a certain level of experience. If storage is kind of an extra task for you versus your primary task, you're probably going to want to pull in a consultant regardless.

I'd rate the solution eight out of ten.

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