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NetApp FAS Series Review
Supports anything from Windows CIFS shares to UNIX NFS shares to block-level storage.


Valuable Features:

Its flexibility: It will support anything; from Windows CIFS shares, to UNIX NFS shares, to block-level storage; on the same platform; on the same disks; with the same interface. It's not specific to one set or another set.

Improvements to My Organization:

I'm not sure that I can comment. This is what we've always used, so I have nothing to compare it to.

It has a steep learning curve. Once you've reached the top of that curve, though, it's much easier to manage since it is all in the same system. You don't have a separate system to manage block-level storage or a separate system to manage other types of shares.

Room for Improvement:

One of the issues that we have had with NetApp in upgrading over the years is that migrating data from one system to another is one-way only. If you have a new storage system that is going to replace an old storage system, where you're transitioning slowly from one to another, you can copy the data in one direction, but that same tool, which is typically used as a disaster recovery tool, can't be used to reset it back the other direction, as well. That level of backward compatibility would be very nice to have.

Stability Issues:

In the 20-some years I've been working with NetApp stuff, the system has caused one outage. Other than that, for any of the failure that it's had, the redundancy that is built into it, has handled the failure and left the systems up and the data available.

Scalability Issues:

It is very scalable. It has gotten much more scalable. With every level, it's becoming more and more scalable.

Technical Support:

Technical support directly from NetApp is usually very, very good. As compared to others, the expertise that the individual that you talk to on the phone is usually very good. You can talk directly to an engineer, if that's required. We’ve actually talked to hardware development people on occasion, when that has been required.

The support team is very knowledgeable and very accessible.

Previous Solutions:

We invest in a new solution when the existing solution goes out of its initial support. We have been looking for new options for about six months now because the extended support is very, very expensive.

Initial Setup:

I was involved in migrations from one system to another system. The initial setup, the cabling, the hardware side of it is tedious.

Have NetApp come in and do the initial install of the physical system for you. It's definitely worth the time.

Other Solutions Considered:

We are looking at Pure Storage. We have looked at and discarded an EMC option. That's why I recently attended a NetApp conference. We were looking to see the next level of the NetApp All-Flash FAS.

We rejected the EMC option because we had an EMC piece of gear in-house that had a failure. It continued to operate, like it's supposed to. The problem was that the part on the piece of EMC gear that failed could not be replaced without causing downtime. It might as well have just caused the downtime initially. We have migrated everything off of that. It was a stupid little thing. It wasn’t like the backplane failed; it was a stupid little thing. I would not recommend it, and we will probably never go with EMC again.

Other Advice:

Take your time. It's a very dynamic market right now. Make sure that the information that you're getting on the system is for what's currently available and not for what they're expecting to have next quarter. Because, a lot of the next-quarter stuff is vapor, where they don't actually have it. They haven't gotten around to putting that in place, yet, and they promise and promise until they get money from you.

That's one of the reasons why we're holding off on making a decision until the gear is actually available.

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

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