NetApp ONTAP Review

Scalability is awesome with a cluster node, not only can you scale up, but you can also scale out


What is our primary use case?

We use it for everything, like the NAS and SAN functionality. It's a back-end for the host VMs and the Microsoft SQL Database, which is directly attached to them. We also use all-in-one file servers.

How has it helped my organization?

We got rid of about 25 Windows file servers, which is great. We don't have to patch them every month anymore. We now have an all in one solution, which are virtual storage machines (SVMs). For example, previously, executives would try to use presentation material on the file server and the screen would not come up for a long time. Now it come up instantly.

We use it for our mission-critical applications, such as SQL Databases and NetApp AFF.

What is most valuable?

It has multiple uses. It does everything in one box. 

What needs improvement?

I would like them to support NetApp All Flash in upcoming NVMe versions. We have an AFF8040 and NVMe version 9.4 does not currently support it. 

I would like to have an easier connection to the cloud on the back-end. Something that brings the cold data out to the cloud and brings it back when needed. We want ONTAP to do this.

While the data efficiency features are great, I want to see more efficiency and compression type of technology.

For how long have I used the solution?

More than five years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It works. It is great and reliable. We haven't had any issues. Hardware failure is rare. We have no performance issues with our AFF.

When a disk failed, it was automatically detected. They sent me a disk and I wasn't even aware of it. It happened on Sunday and they sent me a disk on Monday morning.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability is awesome with a cluster node, not only can you scale up, but you can also scale out.

How are customer service and technical support?

ONTAP tech support needs some improvement, but it has improved quite a bit.

Previously, the support center was in India and Asia. They had some communication problems but their technical skills were not up to par. Then, they pulled the technical support back into North Carolina, as this helped a lot. I can talk to a Level 1, which most of the time I don't need. When I have an issue, I know exactly what I'm talking about. I know there's a bug and need to go to Level 2. Also, our large corporation global team gets involved as soon as I open a case, and they put me through to Level 2 or Level 3, which helps a lot.

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

We were previously using Hitachi with NetApp. However, Hitachi is lacking in all the features. Our companies chose Hitachi because it was cheaper, but this was back in the early 2000s. Hitachi doesn't have any NAS functionality. File systems could not be migrated unless we connected to a Windows system, then Windows provided the file system function.

We looked into this solution because of its high availability and disaster recovery. We are in a dangerous business because something could blow up and everything would be lost. So, offsite backup replication, SnapMirror, and SnapVault are very important.

How was the initial setup?

It was extremely easy to set up from day one.

What about the implementation team?

I implemented everything myself.

What was our ROI?

It has helped us reduce the overall cost of storage. Replacing the Windows license alone provided us savings. 

We have been able to save a lot of space because there is deduplication and compression.

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

Just buy ONTAP and go for it.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

When we were considered products, we also looked at Dell EMC. Previously, Dell EMC products only provided SAN functionality. We had to buy separate Celerra as NAS heads to attach to the SAN back-end. 

NetApp has much smarter way of doing everything. Their Snapshot technology, by just copying the index, is much better than Dell EMC, which forces you to cut a snapshot, taking up I/O.

Data Domain has a lot better deduplication technology than NetApp, and that is bad for NetApp. 

What other advice do I have?

We have been using Fibre Channel, but we are planning on moving over to NVMe. We're on a 32G Gen 6 switches and HBA cards. We need to convert it to see how it will affect the speed, but it should drastically increase the performance of the connection.

NVMe over Fabric with existing Fibre Channel infrastructure is wonderful. It is easy to convert. We don't have to do much at all. It's just a matter of how we present. Instead of using WWPNs, we use an IQN number. So, it's connecting the same volume over iSCSI and Fibre Channel mixed. We just have another means to talk to the hosts.

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