NetApp SnapMirror Review
In essence, the livelihood of the company is served up from a central NetApp storage system; all company data is there.


Valuable Features

I find the most valuable features to be the management suites, integration into VMware with the Virtual Storage Console, and the capabilities it offers toward disaster recovery such as Snapshots, Snapmirror, and Snapvault.

Improvements to My Organization

A NetApp storage solution allows a company to architect a disaster recovery plan that protects all company data. For instance, you have a production NetApp. All company CIFS data is located there. All VMware NFS volumes are located there. All server LUNs are located there. In essence, the livelihood of the company is served up from a central NetApp storage system because all company data is there. This production storage system offers local snapshots for easy restore capabilities. You can then Snapmirror all of this data to a separate NetApp storage unit in a different hosting facility. You can also implement Snapvault. If disk-based recovery is enough you can stop there. Or if you prefer, one can implement tape-based backup via NDMP against the DR NetApp SAN then ship tapes offsite to Iron Mountain or somewhere else. This essentially gives you local Snapshot to production, Snapmirror to DR SAN and offsite tapes. This is a simple and brief description but should provide an outline to its benefit to an organization as it relates to disaster recovery or a backup solution. There are a number of different capabilities a NetApp filer provides that is a clear benefit to any organization.

Room for Improvement

This has to do with Snapmirror to an unlike NetApp unit and disks but the process is called Deswizzling. This process can get out of control sometimes and cause excessive disk utilization. You really have to be careful with Snapmirror planning as it relates to how often synchronizations are completed especially on large volumes. The other improvement area could be support for replication from Windows file servers. There is the NetApp OSSV solution but you are version locked with ONTAP. You cannot run cluster mode on 8.2.x and still support OSSV. There is an appliance but that can get a bit pricey. There are open source solutions if you look hard enough and put some effort into implementation.

Use of Solution

I have used NetApp storage products for the past ten years.

Deployment Issues

With large implementations there are always hiccups but nothing serious that can't be fixed with minimal effort.

Stability Issues

Initially one can experience issues with stability if the NetApp unit is over utilized. This can happen. I have seen a NetApp unit with sustained 100% disk utilization over a period of a few days. This causes real issues. This is why I say it is imperative to really plan the deployment of disk storage systems. You cannot overload the system with production access, Snapmirroring, Snapshots, NDMP, and such. Definitely give your plan due diligence and design your implementation accordingly.

Scalability Issues

NetApp systems are very scalable especially with cluster mode ONTAP.

Customer Service and Technical Support

Customer Service:

I do not interact much with NetApp customer service. That is the job of my primary purchasing vendor. However, the few times that I have it was great service.

Technical Support:

NetApp's automated support is great. If the system encounters an issue it will fire off an auto support to NetApp. On the rare occasion that I have actually had to call NetApp support they were very responsive and actively worked to a resolution of my issue. Overall, excellent technical support.

Previous Solutions

It is not to say I ONLY use NetApp. That is simply not true. I just prefer NetApp. I have implemented storage solutions from pretty much all vendors. It mostly comes down to a business decision of cost vs. benefit. NetApp is not cheap by any stretch but you do get what you pay for.

Initial Setup

The initial setup of racking, wiring, assigning shelves, IP addressing, and even array and aggregate creation is fairly simple. As you integrate systems and data onto the storage solution it can get a bit complex I think. I am so used to it now it is like second nature but I can see it being complicated for some who are not used to a particular solution or vendor. Examples of complexity could be implementing high availability, fiber channel, iSCSI, NFS, LUNs, flash cache, snap schedules, permissions, Qtrees, Quotas, NDMP, CIFS, etc. all on the same production filers.

Implementation Team

This really depends on the size and complexity of the implementation but typically it is either in-house completely or a combination of in-house and vendor support. I have never relied on just a vendor implementation. The primary vendor I use is very knowledgeable and responsive to my needs.

ROI

It is sometimes difficult to quantify a return on investment when it comes to certain technology especially when it does not technically make the company money. However, with a NetApp storage solution, if designed and implemented for a specific purpose, it can provide some real numbers for a return on investment. If a particular solution was built to provide high availability, backup capabilities, disaster recovery capabilities and faster access to data then one can clearly calculate an ROI.

Pricing, Setup Cost and Licensing

I cannot provide specific numbers but depending on the size of the implementation it can run well into the $100K+ range with recurring support contract costs. With power and cooling costs it can also accrue costs quickly. Again, certain solutions are cheap while others are not. It is really a business decision as to which is selected.

Other Solutions Considered

I evaluate different vendors regularly to keep up with new technology from various vendors. I have recently evaluated solutions from EMC and Dell.

Other Advice

NetApp is a solid solution for SAN needs. It is best to really do your homework and find the solution that is appropriate for the organization and allow for growth based on company historical data. You don't want to just purchase the top model solution just to say you did but at the same time you don't want to under engineer a solution either. Take your time and design what's best for the company.

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

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