NetApp ONTAP Review

The stability, and the scalability, and the way it performs has been excellent


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What is our primary use case?

Our primary use is predominately NFS data stores, iSCSI LUNs for SQL databases, and CIFS file share.

How has it helped my organization?

I think the biggest improvement we've had over the years where ONTAP has improved the efficiency of it. Organization is due to storage efficiency. They can do deduplication, which is greatly reduced our on disc storage. More recently compaction and certainly in the past have had compression. So the ability to use those compression techniques and then be able to mirror that to an external site and retain the compression techniques. The storage that it does save has been invaluable because we can then buy less storage, have less storage being transferred across the WAN, particularly where the DR sites, geographically dispersed over literally thousands of kilometers.

We use ONTAP for our ERP. It's a mission-critical application that runs 24/7. It needs to be online and responsive all the time. Our last reboot of one of the applications, the server had been up 1200 days, and it was more of periodic maintenance. Since it had been up over three years we thought we might just reboot it just to be sure, but aside from that, it runs 24/7 on an SSD aggregate. Performance is great and stability has been awesome.


We use ONTAP to clone databases and from those clone databases, we use data mining to pull out data from near real-time data sets. That's where the Snapshot and cloning features have come in.

ONTAP has reduced our overall cost of on-premise storage tenfold. We were looking at upgrades and had to evaluate another vendor. Once we took into account the Snapshot and cloning capabilities that ONTAP gives us, we literally would have bought maybe ten to fifteen times the storage we're currently using in the other vendor's storage. Obviously, that wasn't going to be economically viable. The decision was made to retain the ONTAP code base and just upgrade the existing hardware.

What is most valuable?

Definitely the most valuable features for ONTAP that we've come across are the Snapshot and cloning technologies. We take regular scheduled snapshots and from that we provision clones to SQL databases, which means that we can run multi-terabyte databases within literally minutes and do data analytics against those databases, pull them all down, and restart that process as many times as we like. It's a great use case because we used to be able to do that process every one to two weeks, but due to the restore procedure it would take twelve to sixteen hours to get any of those databases out back. Now, we can provision that in literally minutes. We can run that process a lot more frequently and get the answers back a lot more often.

We've been able to save a lot of space in our NetApp storage mostly due to the deduplication engine that runs. Particularly in our VM datastores, we're looking up to 70 to 80 percent of space efficiency being achieved through that. Add into that compression and now compaction with the new ONTAP version it's certainly pushing those figures more up to 80 to 90 percent.

What needs improvement?

The additional features I would like to see in ONTAP, and NetApp would probably be the single pane of glass software. Over the years that's probably the biggest area that we've struggled with. NetApp has had a lot of good products, but a lot of them haven't necessarily seamlessly integrated with each other and you have to go to multiple management consoles to manage their software or their hardware. From a customer point of view, I think that single pane of glass where you could just add modules and enable functionality would be the most beneficial thing that NetApp could add.

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability of our ONTAP system has been awesome over the last four to five years, particularly with the software. The controls have been excellent as well. We recently went through a view of all of our systems and found a number of them had been up, over three years without any sort of reboots or downtime. We have been very happy with the stability of the systems.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The scalability of the systems has been excellent since the introduction of ONTAP cluster mode. Traditionally we had 7-mode, and once we upgraded to cluster-mode and found that we can scale nodes transparently, moving volumes around without disruption to the core systems have been really good and makes migrations easy as well.

How is customer service and technical support?

NetApp Tech support has been very good on their ONTAP hardware and their ONTAP OS itself. The biggest area that we found it lacking is being around more of the support for the software the products outside of ONTAP, but the ONTAP support itself has been excellent.

What other advice do I have?

I would rate ONTAP around about eight out of ten. The main reason for that is because I believe nothing can have a ten out of ten. Nothing's perfect. There is always room for improvement. The only reason I don't give it a nine is multi-terabyte databases of regular support. The product itself now is excellent. The stability, and the scalability, and the way it performs has been excellent.

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