NetApp HCI Review

Straightforward to use and the interface is good, but the cabling needs to be improved


What is our primary use case?

Initially, our primary use case for this solution was testing. We had a large deployment of Nutanix and we got NetApp HCI to test along with it. Then, we were going to use it for the office to get off of some of the older equipment for VMware.

NetApp HCI hasn't been used in production or for office applications yet.

We upgraded the solution and then took it down about three months ago. It was in our data center and we moved it because we wanted to put it into an office with newer equipment. Unfortunately, the networking couldn't handle what we were plugging into it, so we ended up taking down the office. Now, we've been waiting to get newer switches so that we can do it.

How has it helped my organization?

The ability of this solution to scale on-demand is great. It is easy to do. If you need another compute and another storage node, they're really easy to put into play and add into the original cluster that you have.

It is nice to have separate compute and separate storage for each node, but in some ways that it sort of a downfall, too, because in a true HCI environment the storage and compute would be together in a single node. I can see the benefits of having them separate in that you are able to take one down and not affect the other. But, I think that if you really want to go dense, then you'd want to have the true HCI, which has them together in one.

In the testing that we did, we found that application performance was a lot faster than having traditional storage like a NetApp FAS or AFF, and some Dell or HP nodes for vSphere. It was faster having that all combined on one chassis.

I think that NetApp HCI has efficiencies and mobility similar to that of a public cloud. We're strict on what we can and cannot go to the cloud for, and it is hard for us to use the public cloud with any product.

I would not say that we realized more efficient use of compute resources.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature of this solution is the SolidFire interface. The graphing is very nice, and it gives you insight into the VMs.

It is pretty straightforward to use.

What needs improvement?

The physical cabling was a problem for us, which is why we ended up going with Nutanix. Nutanix used two cables per node, whereas the HCI needs several to each the compute and storage. I'm not sure of the exact number, but it was a lot more than Nutanix and the amount of cabling would have been really hard to manage. I know that they have now changed it and bought it down to two cables, and this is what we're trying to get up and running now. As long as it works, this is a good option. If you want to have a really dense data center then it's hard to have a big chunk of cabling going through everything.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We did have some stability issues. However, we got it pretty early on. We did have a bunch of purple screens, but after we updated it, I believe those went away and it was a lot more stable. We have not had it up for a few months now, but it did get more stable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scaling this solution is pretty easily done. It's a new chassis or a new node that you plug in and add to the system. There is no downtime.

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

We had acquired a company that was bringing over a lot of VMs and storage, and we did not have much space in our data center, so we had to go dense. NetApp HCI was one of the options that we look at for going as dense as we possibly could.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup of this solution was pretty straightforward, although it was more complex than some of the other products out there. For example, Nutanix has a more straightforward setup where you just have one webpage to go to, add the rest of your nodes, set it up and you're done. With NetApp HCI, it was a little bit more difficult, but pretty straightforward if you read the documentation.

What about the implementation team?

We had a consultant come to our site to assist us with trying to get hooked up and running when we were moving into the office. They were helpful.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I have been using Nutanix as well. I find that they both have their pros and cons, and we like the interface of NetApp better than that of Nutanix. Nutanix is easier and more straightforward to set up.

What other advice do I have?

We went with a different solution and having run that for a while, I would say that there is a lot more than they could do to make it more streamlined.

My advice to anybody who is researching this type of solution is that if you want to go dense, then this is a good product. We ended up going with a competitive product, that I think is a little better, but NetApp has been around for a long time, they're a great company, and it's a great product. They just have to get past the issues with cabling.

I would rate this solution a six out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises

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

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