For us it's the horizontal scalability. We traditionally run our private clouds for our R&D engineering on AFF, which worked quite well. But we ran into IOP-driven scalability. So instead of adding more clusters and more HA pairs with all-flash disks in an AFF scenario, we were able to just scale with SolidFire. That is so much better because we can add a node, we add compute, we add storage, and we've had really good luck with that.
Improvements to My Organization
Our use case is all private cloud right now, running OpenStack. All internal, for our internal R&D and engineering.
For us, moving into a private cloud area was a big step for R&D. So while we are just in our infancy right now, it has made a big difference in storage efficiency. Traditional workloads that we ran on AFF, we saw better deduplication ratios, and efficiency ratios on SolidFire than AFF for our workloads. It's a very IOP-driven environment, very IOP intensive, and the SolidFire handles that quite well using the QoS for IOP.
Room for Improvement
We're really in our infancy right now for what we use it for. We haven't really gotten into a lot of the advanced features and functionality of SolidFire because we get so many things out of the OpenStack overlay. For now it's doing what we wanted it to do.
Anything we've had, were covered by Hotfix. We had some false positives, power supplies failing, and that's really been about it. We had a couple of glitches during some upgrade processes but nothing that was really concerning to us.
Everything has been resolved.
It happens with any product. It wasn't anything that stood out for us, to be a red light.
It's been really good. We've had no issues, we've had non-disruptive upgrades, non-disruptive hotfixes, which is really great for the customer - the R&D customer. They don't like any disruption. Disruption is money to them. So we have been really satisfied.
Great. For us, budget wise, just being able to say we know this workload is coming down the pipes for new design, a new ASIC chip, anything like that. We can predict what the cost is going to be versus having to buy disk at another solution. It's great for us.
Customer Service and Technical Support
Any small, minor issues that we've had have been resolved by support really quickly and support has been extremely good with SolidFire.
We had initially purchased AFF for this solution and, while it met our needs, we thought that SolidFire might be a better fit based on how we wanted to configure OpenStack and what our workload was; and again, for the scalability in terms of IOPs and how we have to grow that for AFF versus SolidFire.
Purely the scalability, being able to add a node, add compute, add storage, and being able to restrict IOPs for specific applications and workflows is a really a huge benefit for us.
I was involved. We did a proof of concept, set it all up and then we ended up adding on to that. We turned our PoC into production and then we added more nodes, and more nodes. We've gone from a five-node initial proof of concept to, now, a 15-node cluster.
The initial setup was easy. Very simple. We were up and running in less than an hour I think, which was really easy; after it was racked and stacked, etc. Very, very easy to get going.
I can't really speak about SolidFire's impact on operational cost compared to other storage platforms because all our other storage platforms are NetApp. The scalability for us, it is a cost-savings, so if we hit a certain number of IOPs within an AFF system we have to add another pair of controllers and we have to add more disk. There are also bottlenecks for AFF, for how many SSD shelves you can run for those specific clusters, whereas with the SolidFire side we are just able to add nodes on and get what we need. They're both great solutions that fit the use case a lot better.
I'm not sure it's uniquely valuable to an enterprise-type company like us but I think it's unique in how it operates. That whole "add a node, add compute, add storage" has been done before but I think they really do it right with their all-flash technologies. Some of the other vendors don't do it with all-flash and run into bottlenecks for IOP and the like. I think SolidFire has really done a great job with that. They have done a really good job with storage efficiencies versus a lot of other vendors. A lot of the other vendors are add-ons for things like deduplication or compression/compaction. So I think SolidFire has done a great job with that.
Other Solutions Considered
It's all been NetApp products. There's been AFF FAS and then we just thought we would look at SolidFire because we've had such great luck with AFF and FAS for many, many years. We've been a long standing NetApp customer and it just looked like a good solution for us to try, do the proof of concept, and it worked out well for us.
We did not consider hybrid storage for this specific use case, but we do have hybrid storage from that NetApp in other parts of our infrastructure. We are also adding some other tiers of storage into this cloud solution, potentially storage grid and potentially some other FAS-type thing for protocol-based access.
The most important criterion when selecting a vendor to work with, for me personally, is partnership. I think it's also important that the vendor has vision. I think it's important that they are willing to collaborate with customers and not just throw solutions at them. I think they should really want to understand your workflows, how they can benefit you and how they can make your life easier in terms of automation or efficiencies or performance. I want to find that they actually really care about what you are doing, as opposed to just throwing a solution out there.
Do your due diligence. Do proofs of concept. Make sure that you try to break it with what you are trying to do, and make sure you engage the vendor. Tell them exactly and share exactly what you trying to do and let them help you build the correct solution. Especially with NetApp, they have such a huge portfolio. You might be thinking traditionally you have experience in AFF or FAS but SolidFire might be a good fit, or E-Series might be a good fit, or cloud ONTAP might be a good fit. So it's important to engage the vendor and find out what the best solution is for your use case.
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.