What is our primary use case?
The solution is primarily for a hyper-converged solution, and the hyper-converged solution with NetApp HCI is to address the most common workloads, generic workloads, also workloads around VDI. It's primarily for everything around performance, around software like the CAD suite, and around scientific completion.
What is most valuable?
The performance with the QoS is its most valuable aspect.
The integration with VMware is excellent. There are different plugins to manage the SolidFire storage from the vCenter level. That I really appreciate.
SolidFire even as a standalone storage platform is excellent.
I would say in terms of architecture and in terms of functionality, the product is quite good.
It's block access storage, however, for block access storage we have the guarantee of performance.
We have the duplication and we have the encryption with this solution. We have almost all the standards needed for storage with SolidFire. In terms of protection, with the level of protection we can set between the SolidFire nodes, it's very good.
What needs improvement?
The only thing I would see as a drawback of SolidFire, is that it's a storage that we can address only with the iSCSI protocol and no other protocol such as FC, or things like that, unfortunately. It's probably the only point that I can see that is not positive compared to other storage solutions.
It would be ideal if the solution could be more open with access protocols.
Sometimes we have to be careful when we need to add some storage. I'd say some tips and some best practices with respect to that would help.
You don't have business continuity with SolidFire. I think it could be a nice feature to have in the future.
For how long have I used the solution?
I've been working with this solution at my current company for one year, however, in my previous position I worked with SolidFire solution for two years. I'd say I have around three years of experience with the product.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
I've never had any issues with SolidFire's stability, except once. We had a problem with a node, a problem with a motherboard. In fact, with the protection level, we changed the motherboard without any disruption in production and in storage services. If we can change like that from one motherboard of another, and change an entire SolidFire node without disruption, it's okay and I'd consider that quite a stable product. It was even done without performance issues as I recall. From this point of view, it's really a really nice, reliable solution.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
The scalability is quite good. I don't have a number in mind, however, I know that when SolidFire is part of the HCI product from NetApp, we can scale up to at least 40 SolidFire nodes. That is quite good for a full SSD solution. On that side, it's really enough to address the most common storage needs.
How are customer service and technical support?
The only time I had an issue was with a motherboard. In fact, with the SolidFire technology, NetApp was able to acquire Active IQ. Active IQ is the software layer that is pushing all information on the health of the SolidFire platform.
Therefore, the support is really quite proactive, in fact. Each time there was something to do, a component to change, or an upgrade to do on the platform, it was followed by emails from the NetApp support, who would remind me of necessary changes. Even with Active IQ, we've had advice on what we could do on the system to get better performance or better organization about the data that resides on the SolidFire platform.
It's got really great proactive support, and we're quite satisfied with them.
How was the initial setup?
The initial setup is not complex. It's pretty straightforward. There was some information we needed to get before installation, such as IP addresses, due to the fact that we were with an iSCSI storage and we needed some IP addresses for each node that composing the SolidFire storage solution. That said, when we have all that in an array, when we have all the information ready to go, the installation process is really easy, quite fast, and well-integrated when we want to provide this kind of storage to VMware.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
Within HCI, the whole solution is considered to be quite extensive. As just a storage solution, however, SolidFire is at the same level of pricing as a full SSD solution like ASF. It really depends on what the customer's needs are. That said, it's quite well positioned in terms of price.
What other advice do I have?
We're a distributor.
SolidFire is on its own standard storage platform, and, as it's embedded with HCI from NetApp, adds to the storage for the hyper-converged solution.
There are a lot of use cases for SolidFire within HCI. It can address most of the workloads we have on the customer side. It's really something. We can build solutions that really fit the customer and we can size the compute as needed.
For the VMware server, we use ESX, and we can also add into the compute nodes some CPU cards for all that is graphic or scientific calculations. On the storage side, we can build the storage we need with the SolidFire nodes. We can really address on one side, the computer needs, and on the other side, the storage needs. In fact, that's the value of HCI by NetApp. What is nice with SolidFire is that the QoS is embedded, and for each volume you create, you put the QoS on it. And you're sure to grantee the service level agreement for the customer, depending on the workloads he needs.
Overall, I would rate the solution at an eight out of ten. It doesn't quite have the same amount of options and features as Pure Storage. Yet, it's pretty impressive.
The only recommendation I have to others is on the network side. You need to really get all the information required before you try to deploy this solution. That's all. It's a little work to do beforehand, however, it's really important to address everything before implementing SolidFire.
Which deployment model are you using for this solution?