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NetApp takes virtual storage appliance approach with Data Ontap Edge

NetApp gets into virtual storage appliance market with Data Ontap Edge software, which lets remote offices connect to NetApp data center storage.

NetApp Inc. today launched a virtual storage appliance for remote offices and added the ability to support volumes...

as large as 20 PB -- up from its current limit of 100 TB.

The Data Ontap Edge virtual storage appliance and Infinite Volumes are enabled by NetApp’s Data Ontap 8.1.1 operating system. NetApp disclosed some 8.1.1 features -- including Flash Pools caching -- when it launched its FAS2220 entry-level storage system earlier this month. NetApp expects Ontap 8.1.1 to be generally available throughout its FAS unified storage within a few months.

Data Ontap Edge is a NetApp-branded version of a virtual appliance NetApp has sold outside the United States through Fujitsu bundled with a Fujitsu Primergy blade server. Edge runs as a virtual machine on VMware vSphere.

Jay Kidd, NetApp senior vice president of product operations, said Edge uses up to 5 TB from the VMware ESX host and has deduplication, thin provisioning and snapshot capabilities. Customers can mirror and replicate snapshots to NetApp FAS or V-Series storage in the data center.

“Virtualization has been so powerful for servers, why wouldn’t it make sense for us to leverage that too?” asked Dave Hitz, NetApp founder and executive vice president.

NetApp said Edge will be available in August. NetApp’s press release calls it a “low-cost storage system,” but no pricing has been set yet. Edge will run in Ontap 7 mode, which means it will not have Ontap’s clustering capabilities.

There are other virtual storage appliances on the market. VMware Inc. last year launched a vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA), but that is limited to sharing VMDK files across three hosts. Hewlett-Packard Co. has a virtual appliance based on LeftHand storage, and DataCore Software Corp.’s SANsymphony-V is a virtual appliance that DataCore refers to as a storage hypervisor.

Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) senior analyst Terri McClure said Data Ontap Edge will also compete with sophisticated remote office products such as the Avere Systems Inc. edge filer for remote sites, which was launched in March. She said these devices can solve a common problem in remote offices. An ESG survey last year found that more than one-third of companies with remote offices have set better application accessibility for end users and better file sharing and collaboration as priorities.

“Putting a virtual server at the edge reduces latency and lets IT meet performance service levels yet handle backup and data protection for these remote sites in the data center,” she said.

Scale volumes ‘infinitely’ -- up to 20 PB

NetApp’s Infinite Volumes technology let customers create a volume that can scale to 20 PB across nodes of a cluster.  The expanded volume size will help companies dealing with large file types, which can run into the terabytes for single files.

“This is for people with a large repository of files who want to keep dumping data in the same directory structure without worrying about volume size,” NetApp’s Kidd said. “Spreading the data across nodes gives us good performance for read access.”

McClure said Infinite Volumes gives breathing room to customers in industries with rapidly growing data stores and large files. “With media formats getting richer and accelerated content creation points via every conceivable endpoint device, the 100 TB limit would eventually be a problem,” she said. “By the time 20 PB becomes a problem, I expect NetApp will again raise its limits.”

Infinite Volumes will be available on NetApp’s FAS6200 enterprise and FAS3200 midrange systems but not the low-end FAS2200.

Spinnaker clustering -- and beyond?

NetApp’s Hitz said the vendor didn’t play up Ontap 8 when it was released more than a year ago. Version 8 had a cluster mode through technology NetApp acquired from Spinnaker Networks in 2003. But the new features in 8.1.1 and customer adoption of 8.0 has NetApp pushing the OS more aggressively now.

“Ontap 8.0 was a big deal for NetApp,” he said. “Architecturally, it was a big revamp. We incorporated code from Spinnaker and did a lot of re-engineering of the whole operating system. We didn’t make a big splash about the new capabilities, but we’re talking about it now because we have customers using it. It’s not a scary new thing.”

Integration with Spinnaker code took much longer than NetApp anticipated, but Hitz said Ontap is now fully integrated with Spinnaker’s clustering technology.

“It’s way beyond that,” he said. “Full integration with Spinnaker happened in 8.0. We were just working more quietly with folks getting it into the field.”

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