NetApp Snapshot Review

A very mature solution for point-in-time data state capture but their support needs improvement


What is our primary use case?

Our primary use is to take a snapshot of a current data state. We can use that, for example, if you make some changes — even minor changes database — you take snapshots of the data in a state that you believe the data is good. After that, you make a change to something in the data or maybe something happens where you lose some information or you make some other mistake — accidentally delete data — you can revert to the snapshot and your data will be restored to the point where the snapshot was taken.

The point is to create states so that it is impossible to lose big data. Sometimes people use Snapshot for other purposes — which is not correct — like for making backups. It is not a good idea. You can, technically, use it for that purpose, but I do not recommend it. Some of the information is saved on the same physical media when using Snapshot as a backup. The backup is on the same physical media as the original information, so if something were to happen to the physical media, you lose also backups.

How has it helped my organization?

Snapshot has improved our operations by allowing the opportunity to manipulate data sets without having to worry about making major mistakes with the data.

What is most valuable?

Snapshot has a specific purpose as a means to take a temporary picture of the current state of the data. This is its main feature but also the most important and valuable. Really, it is the only thing that it does.

What needs improvement?

Because the product is so mature — it was developed 25 years ago — every major feature that should be added to the product is already added. It doesn't seem that this product can be improved upon in significant ways. It is used to make a snapshot of the current data, that is what it needs to do and it does exactly that. I don't think that it can be improved at all. It is like a wheel: it is a round wheel and it is doing its job. You can make a wheel with a different shape, but it won't be better than the round one.

Rather than the product itself, the one thing that could possibly be improved is that NetApp global support is not very efficient. I had some issues that I contacted support about and sometimes they react to issues slowly. But the reaction time may be according to the exact product in the NetApp line and the hardware being used. There are different products in the NetApp Snapshot line, built with different approaches. Some are more difficult to use.

But from my experience and what I have heard from other users, the level of support in general for NetApp should be improved for better global coverage.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using this solution for about six years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The Snapshot product just works. In my opinion, you can't talk about the stability of this small component which is just part of a whole system. It is something like talking about the stability of a screwdriver. On the other hand, I think that actually the entire NetApp system is mature and stable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

By itself, it isn't really correct to talk about the scalability of Snapshot. Snapshot just takes what is essentially a photo of the current state of the data. That photo itself cannot be scalable. As far as the whole system — such as the storage capacity and the hardware components — this is scalable, but not the Snapshot itself. Imagine a hard disk which is part of your computer and this computer can be part of a larger network. The network can be scalable or not scalable. Your computer, which contains the hard disk, can be scalable or not scalable. You can add CPUs, you can add memory, you can add additional hard drives and so on. But the hard disk inside your computer, can not be scalable or not scalable. It's just a component.

How are customer service and technical support?

Claims from my colleagues concur that they are not entirely happy with the level of global support. I cannot say that NetApp support is bad because it's not. But, for example, my colleague from Russia claims that they had some problems conversing with and getting support in some cases. Not all cases. It highly depends on the country and your location as to whether support is available during convenient hours.

But another problem, for example, is the availability of spare parts. Some hardware and spare parts are available subject to local customs procedures. So, when someone makes a claim that support procedures are slow, it may not be NetApp that is the problem because they can not do anything about the customs. It's a problem caused by local laws, maybe the importers, maybe customs, maybe someone else and not the vendor at all. Blame about slow support may be getting put on the company when it is not their problem at all.

How was the initial setup?

Installing NetApp is not like a fridge where you just plug it in a power outlet and you are okay. No. It is necessary to know something about the product. NetApp writes excellent documentation and they also have some resources for partners that make it easier to use. I do not think that it is highly complex because I am familiar with it, but it is necessary to have done some preparation and gain some familiarity before the installation. You can not drive a car without the training and without passing the exams and so on. It is the same with Snapshot.

What about the implementation team?

The need for assistance and the complexity of the installation depends on the product. If we are talking about Data ONTAP, you should have a technical background or maybe use resources like a vendor or partner to help with the installation. If we are talking about the HCI, you don't need to have a strong technical background. Many people decide to use or are moving to HCI solutions because they are simpler for the customer. At the same time, it is not quite as good of a solution for me. But people use what they want to have and sometimes ease-of-use is more important than specialized functionality.

But the coding for the more classic solution, Data ONTAP, requires some technical background or assistance to install.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

A lot of vendors have a Snapshot solution. Snapshot is just the name of a solution by NetApp and represents one approach. Different vendors have different types of solutions for capturing data states. For example, it's like a diesel car, a car that runs on ethanol, or electro cars. All of them are cars. It is the same situation with the Snapshot solutions — they all make snapshots. NetApp invented it first and then other vendors just created something which looks like and behaves like Snapshot. NetApp's Snapshot is better — if we compare with all the storage solutions — because there is no performance overhead.

If we are talking about classic storage, the products are not so different if we are comparing NetApp and other snapshot solutions. In my opinion, Data ONTAP storage performance is very good, and the other vendors are just trying to achieve the same performance.

What other advice do I have?

On a scale from one to ten, with one being the worst and ten being the best, I would rate NetApp's Snapshot as a six or seven. The problem with offering advice about this product is that it is just a component of a system. It is almost like somebody is asking you about how skilled you are with computers. If you think that skill with computers means you can push a button and something happens, you may be very skilled pushing that one button, but the skill is just pushing a button. You can press it or not. But if you have a whole keyboard, you won't press only one button. You buy the keyboard and use the whole keyboard. Some buttons will be pressed more frequently than other buttons. But you can not have a keyboard with half of the buttons or can't use a keyboard that is missing the one button you know how to use. On a keyboard, you can not say one button is more useful than another one. A keyboard is a whole thing. The NetApp solution is not just the Snapshot solution. This is a small part of the storage system. It is very useful — just excellent — but you can not use it without storage and other parts. You need the whole solution. It would be like buying a wheel without the car. You should not pay for something you can't use or have no need for in the first place.

I can answer generally about the NetApp system, and I think it is a seven. 

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