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NetApp’s messaging and users’ experiences

NetApp has been on the radar screen more than usual this week, with the announcement of its rebranding campaign followed by its Analyst Day 24 hourse later.

When I’ve written about NetApp over the past few months, I’ve received feedback from its customers talking about the discrepancies between what NetApp’s claiming and what they’re seeing in their shops. A while back I heard from someone using one of NetApp’s arrays who said he felt there had been a difference in what his NetApp sales rep told him and what actually happened after he installed the machine, specifically when it came to Fibre Channel LUNs and snapshots.

According to NetApp, its most current official best practices state that LUNs have the same snapshot overhead as other data on FAS systems, an estimated 20%. But in the course of reporting on Analyst Day, I quoted a different user in the article talking about how he’s seen overhead issues with LUNs. This user’s understanding is also that the best practice is 100% overhead for snapshots of that data.

Another comment in my Analyst Day story suggested high-end customers don’t view NetApp’s boxes as matching the reliability of Tier 1 based arrays. Val Bercovici, director of competitive sales for NetApp, said that attitude is outdated because it doesn’t take into account the vendor’s more recent focus on higher-end storage. As he put it, it represents a “very rear-view mirror view of NetApp.” But, he conceded that this is exactly why NetApp is trying to change its messaging.

But messaging can be a big part of the problem when there is a discrepancy between what the sales rep claims and what the actual hands-on engineer wants to configure. Who knows more about how the machine is actually going to perform, a sales or marketing rep or an engineer doing the installation?

The user I quoted in the Analyst Day story, Tom Becchetti, says he was told about the 100% overhead best practice at a training class last fall, and concedes the instructor could have been going on outdated information. But if that’s the case, the lack of up-to-date information in the field about NetApp products are as big a problem as the overhead itself.

I’m hoping there are other NetApp end users floating around who can weigh in on this. What has been your experience with NetApp products? What has been your understanding of NetApp’s best practices? What would you like to see NetApp doing as it tries to reinvent itself?

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Who runs Netapp for block (SAN) anyway? Smart users know Netapp's core competency is NAS and block is a nice (but inefficient) afterthought. The problem is, you can't escape WAFL (which means you can't escape their RAID DP unless you run G-series with a SAN array) and WAFL adds 20ms+ to your transaction. Even Clariion can do better than that. Netapp needs to buy a real SAN vendor (like 3PAR) and stop trying to be a block play with their filers. Stick to NAS, devel a real Global Namespace or cluster product to compete with Isilson and forget about block. Either that, or figure out a way to let me turn off WAFL so I can save myself 20ms on my IO response time.
trying to forego the sales speak and just quote facts, we have a whole lot of shops running NetApp from SAN and 20ms+ latencys is not what we see at all! Both iSCSI and FCP run nicely and well within tolerance, yes there are less expensive SAN systems that might perform better - but they don't manage/grow as nicely and don't come with cool features - and we all know its about cool features! (Cool being - NFS for VMware, CIFS to do without pesky file servers, iSCSI for remote DR site, clone features, etc.)