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NetApp E Series 'performance' flash array platform gets an upgrade

The NetApp E Series now includes EF560 all-flash with 1.6 TB to speed database workloads, while the E5600 hybrid system scales to 2.3 PB of flash and hard-disk drive storage.

The NetApp E Series flash storage hardware got a refresh this week, as the vendor released the EF560 all-flash array for transactional databases and the E5600 hybrid storage system for capacity-intensive SAN workloads.

The platforms are available immediately and replace the EF550 and EF5000 appliances. The NetApp E Series is one of the vendor's two flash platforms, with a third on the way. It sells FAS Storage System all-flash and hybrid arrays, and is beta testing an all-flash FlashRay system.

The vendor said it re-architected the array hardware and its management software to boost storage performance. E Series arrays are designed with customized Xeon E5-2600 V3 high-performance microprocessors and run version 8.2 of NetApp's SANtricity Storage Management operating system.

NetApp describes the EF560 as a scale-up SAN array designed for databases that require high performance. The all-flash platform uses multi-level cell NAND flash memory and supports 120 1.6 TB solid-state drives (SSDs) for raw capacity of 192 TB. It is performance based, and lacks most common storage management features.

Up to 38 TB of usable flash storage can be packed in a 2U footprint. EF560 supports 16 Gb Fibre Channel, 10 Gb iSCSI, 12 Gb-per-second SAS and 56 Gb InfiniBand network protocols.

NetApp rates the EF560 for sustained IOPS of 650,000 and approximately 800 microseconds of latency. Performance improvement stems from faster multicore processors combined with enhanced multithreading in SANtricity, said Mark Welke, a NetApp senior director of product marketing.

"As more and more processing gets pushed into servers, customers continue to deal with bottlenecks at the storage layer. That's where using flash comes into play. It's not the IOPS that matter to customers as much as it is consistent low latency. We're doubling the performance characteristics with these new systems," Welke said.

The EF560 is about NetApp staking its claim as a price-performance leader in the all-flash array (AFA) market, said Mark Peters, a senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group. He pointed to the SPC-1 benchmark score NetApp has submitted, showing scores of an average response time of under one millisecond and price/performance score of $0.54/IOPS.

"With all the hubbub around the newer and sometimes flashier all-flash array market entrants, that claim may be surprising to many NetApp onlookers and users," Peters said. "The NetApp numbers are based on sub-millisecond response times. Can you get a lower price/performance cost than this NetApp AFA? Yes, but only by compromising on the throughput."

High performance comes with a tradeoff. To avoid a performance hit, the EF560 does not include features for inline compression or data deduplication.

Hybrid E5600 revamped for general purpose storage

Listed use cases for the EF5600 Series include Microsoft SharePoint collaboration, email, data warehousing, off-site backup and server virtualization. The hybrid arrays support up to 384 drives, including 120 SSDs.

SANtricity OS upgrade bolsters data protection, storage management

In conjunction with new storage hardware, NetApp added cloned volumes, point-in-time snapshots, remote replication and thin provisioning in the latest version of SANtricity. Another new feature is dynamic disk pooling to shorten RAID rebuild times.

'No need to rush' FlashRay

Welke said there is no update on general availability on FlashRay, which NetApp designed from the ground up for flash. He described FlashRay as a "future product," although it has been with customers in limited availability since September.

"We believe we have two products in the market today addressing customers' needs for all-flash," Welke said. "FlashRay is a future product, and we're taking our time with it. We don't feel a need to rush it."

NetApp declined to disclose pricing for the upgraded E Series.

Dig Deeper on All-flash arrays