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NetApp changes V-Series to FlexArray, launches new enterprise array

NetApp delivers FlexArray, its answer to EMC ViPR, along with a new FAS8000 enterprise array and high-availability upgrades to clustered Data Ontap.

NetApp Inc. today made changes throughout its product line, adding a FAS8000 enterprise unified storage system and FlexArray storage virtualization software, and updating its clustered Data Ontap operating system.

Enterprise arrays with more capacity, memory, flash

The FAS8000 consists of three models that replace the FAS6200 enterprise and FAS3200 midrange arrays. NetApp will continue to sell the FAS2200 entry-level series.

The FAS8020 includes 480 drives for up to 1.92 PB of capacity, including 6 TB of flash, 48 GB of RAM, 8 GB of nonvolatile random access memory (NVRAM) and 12 CPU cores. The FAS8040 includes 720 drives for up to 2.8 PB of capacity, 12 TB of flash, 64 GB of RAM and 16 GB of NVRAM. The FAS8060 includes 1,200 drives for up to 4.8 PB of capacity, 18 TB of flash, 128 GB of RAM, 16 GB of NVRAM and 32 CPU cores.

The systems' network connectivity is built in with unified target adapters, which NetApp sells through an OEM deal with QLogic. The adapters support 16 Gbps Fibre Channel (FC), 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) or FC over Ethernet. The 3U FAS8020 has four 10 GbE ports, two converged network adapter ports, four GbE and four 6 Gbps SAS ports, and four PCI Express (PCIe) expansion slots. The 6U FAS8040 and FAS8060 arrays include 10 GbE ports, eight converged ports, eight GbE and eight 6 Gbps SAS ports, and eight PCIe slots.

Like all FAS storage, the 8000 supports SAN and network-attached storage (NAS). Customers can cluster up to 24 NAS controllers or eight SAN controllers.

Software-defined storage built into Ontap

FlexArray is a software version of NetApp's V-Series virtualization gateways. V-Series runs behind FAS arrays and storage from other major vendors. FlexArray will replace that. It is built into Ontap and can be licensed at any time. The first version supports NetApp FAS arrays as well as EMC and Hitachi Data Systems storage. Unlike V-Series, FlexArray also supports NetApp's E-Series high-performance arrays.

Mark Welke, NetApp's senior director of product marketing, said NetApp plans to add FlexArray support for other vendors' storage, with the timing based on customer demand. NetApp positions FlexArray as part of its software-defined storage technology that competes with EMC ViPR.

High availability for clustered Ontap

High availability and management capabilities have been improved in clustered Data Ontap 8.2.1. Customers will be able to remove disk shelves nondisruptively, and they can move data to other parts of a cluster while replacing a shelf. Data can be moved to other parts of a cluster and can still be accessed, so a shelf can be replaced without downtime. Welke said a cluster can be set up significantly faster in 8.2.1 thanks to self-discovery features and a graphical user interface that walks administrators through each step.

NetApp customer Dan Timko, chief technology officer of Atlanta-based cloud provider Cirrity, uses FAS3200 with Flash Pools and clustered Data Ontap as the back-end storage for his company's hosted services. Timko said he is intrigued by the FAS8000 and FlexArray, but the nondisruptive shelf replacement in clustered Data Ontap 8.2.1 will provide him with the most immediate benefit.

"As somebody who's run up against that problem in the past, I really appreciate that," he said of nondisruptive maintenance. "About a year and a half ago, we wanted to move a shelf from one filer to another to better balance capacity and move workloads around, but you couldn't do that without taking the whole system down. Needless to say, that shelf didn't move. Now that they've added that capability, it eliminates downtime and wasted hardware. We had to buy another shelf because we couldn't move that shelf without taking it down.

"As a cloud provider with high [service-level agreements] SLAs, we don't have a lot of leniency for scheduled maintenance," he continued. "To cluster multiple filers together and move workloads around when we do maintenance is a big deal for us."

Timko said the V-Series gateways did not appeal to him even though he uses NetApp mainly for NAS. His only storage is on FAS arrays and legacy disks that the V-Series doesn't support. But he is adding E-Series storage for bulk storage, and FlexArray will allow him to manage that from the same interface as his FAS storage.

"We'll be able to run a common interface through clustered Ontap to front-end FAS and E-Series," he said. He looks forward to NetApp adding support for flash and less-expensive disk behind FlexArray. "In our business, we need to be flexible to fit a wide range of customer sizes and requirements," he said.

Russ Fellows, a senior partner at Boulder, Colo.-based analyst firm Evaluator Group, said NetApp is smart to collapse its midrange and enterprise platforms into one and likes the new features of clustered Ontap 8.2.1, but he considers FlexArray the most important part of the rollout.

Fellows said FlexArray is an improvement over the V-Series, and he expects NetApp customers will find it easier to grasp and implement. "V-Series was virtualization, but people didn't really see it that way," he said. "They thought of it as a NAS head, and that pigeonholed it. Also, you had to decide at purchase if you wanted to virtualize and needed the V-Series. With FlexArray, you don't have to make that choice up front. You buy the array you need and if you want to virtualize, it's just another feature."

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