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Midrange NetApp flash looks to steal Dell EMC's thunder

NetApp expands All-Flash FAS flagship array with NVMe-connected A320 building block. The vendor claims a 24-node cluster scales to 35 PB of usable storage.

NetApp has fired a salvo at archrival Dell EMC, launching a midrange NVMe flash system as part of an OnTap OS upgrade.

The 2U NetApp A320 flash building block expands its All-Flash Fabric-Attached Storage (AFF) A-Series lineup, which spans four models available in varying capacities. The multiprotocol fabric-attached storage (FAS) is the NetApp flash flagship, supporting Fibre Channel block and CIFS, NFS and SMB file storage.

NetApp integrated NVMe fabric support in FAS arrays last year, coupled with back-end SAS SSDs for storage. AFF A320 controllers connect to an external shelf of dual-ported NVMe SSDs via remote direct memory access. The system contains no internal storage.

An A320 system provides 734 TB of raw capacity. NetApp claims users can scale to 35 petabytes of effective flash in a maximum 24-node cluster with data reduction.

Most major enterprise storage vendors have introduced NVMe support similar to what NetApp has done across its AFF arrays. The NVMe standard offers substantial latency reductions by sending commands across a PCIe bus. That breaks the logjam of SCSI commands routed through host bus adapters.

The NetApp flash news comes one week after Dell EMC reiterated its plan for a new "midrange.next" array based on Dell Power branding this year. Dell EMC claims its Unity array is NVMe-ready, but it isn't shipping with NVMe flash.

"Our competitor is talking about midrange.next, and we've already delivered it," said Joel Reich, NetApp's executive vice president of products and operations.

Eric Burgener, research vice president at analyst firm IDC, said the AFF A320 is an early indicator of NetApp's flash plans.

"Think of the A320 as a building block. NetApp is introducing a new form factor that it ultimately will use to build the entire AFF line. It's the strategic way they're going to build these systems," Burgener said.

OnTap tunes NetApp flash for cloud management

OnTap 9.6 enables wire-encrypted data to be streamed between local NetApp flash arrays and NetApp Cloud Volumes. DevOps teams use NetApp Cloud Volumes to run NetApp file storage natively in AWS, Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Microsoft Azure.

NetApp said encryption can be applied on aggregate data or on specific volumes. Prior to OnTap 9.6, Reich said NetApp customers needed to install an IPsec network bump to encrypt data.

The OnTap update also expands NetApp FabricPool object storage cloud targets, adding GCP and Alibaba. The software identifies inactive data and automatically tiers it to lower-cost object storage. NetApp FabricPool already supports Amazon S3 and Azure Blob storage.

Dig Deeper on NVMe over Fabrics

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