This weekend sees the world superbike championship head to Imola where hopefully Alvaro Bautista can continue his run of fine form and dominance as the Ducati team prepare for their ‘home’ round. Also preparing to lead the pack and leave the competition in the dust is NetApp as they start their new financial year. To help reinforce the benefits that their technology can bring to customers who are looking to be more agile within their cloud strategy, NetApp have come out today with a raft of product announcements that should provide the right amount of acceleration to get the start they need and push them into pole position for this FY.
Firstly, they have announced the imminent arrival of their next iteration of the world’s number one branded storage OS, ONTAP 9.6. The core tenant of this release is to make things easier. Easy to use, easy to gain operational efficiency, easy to incorporate added security and data protection features; and easier to evolve into a hybrid cloud deployment. NetApp position themselves as the Data Authority for the hybrid cloud by helping traditional infrastructure buyers realize their business objectives with modern data centre and next-gen data centre capabilities whilst also helping CIOs, Cloud & Enterprise Architects, and DevOps teams realize the benefits of cloud; and this release further strengthens that stance.
ONTAP 9.6 refines the features within this operating system to maximize uptime whilst protecting and securing data across the hybrid cloud. By simplifying things like standardising the API to use REST, allows easier integration into other developer tools, and with new Ansible modules also being released to utilise this change it opens up the attributes of ONTAP to a whole new audience.
With security at the fore front of almost every IT decision it’s great to see some of the improvements that have been made there. From 9.6 onwards all newly created peer relationships will be encrypted as well as in transit encryption. Also with inline Aggregate Level Deduplication which came in ONTAP 9.2 now becoming common practice and the fact that NetApp Volume Encryption is also becoming the norm it was inevitable that we would see these two features facilitate the need for and development of NetApp Aggregate Encryption (NAE). This allows even more space savings whilst all volumes in the aggregate share the same encryption key. But if you don’t want all the volumes to share the same keys then Multi-tenant Key Management is the new feature for you or your cloud provider.
Another key element within this release is the fact that FabricPool now has more target options by including Google, which supports Multi-Regional, Regional, Nearline and Coldline; and also the addition of China’s largest cloud provider, Alibaba supporting standard and infrequent access. Add these to the list of AWS, Azure and Softlayer for public cloud targets and StorageGRID and Cleversafe for private cloud and throw in the volume tiering policies of None, Snapshot-only, Auto and All it gives customers a huge amount of tiering options with an AFF or SSD aggregate.
The name of a couple of software products is also changing with the OnCommand part of the naming scheme starting to be removed. OnCommand Unified Manager (OCUM) has been rebranded ActiveIQ Unified Manager and OnCommand System Manager is now ONTAP System Manager. Personally, I think this is a good thing as the OnCommand piece didn’t emphasise the products functionality something that the new schema does. The key feature that stands out to me when we look at the newly laid out GUI is the fact that new you can get a years’ worth of performance data off the system right there on the dashboard. The inclusion of new views of Health and Network Configuration is also a marked improvement over the previous version.
With ONTAP 9.6 NetApp are moving from a mixed long-term and short-term service model for alternating releases to every version going forward being on the long-term service model. This means that for certain customers moving to every release is now a reality as the short-term service model was a deterrent to some. To get to ONTAP 9.6 you first need to be on 9.5 then jump to the latest. Thankfully ANDU (Automated Non-Disruptive Upgrade) can help with this procedure.
NetApp first introduced NVMe support in ONTAP 9.4, with the launch of the A800 for end to end NVMe connectivity and the ability to connect to an A300 or A700(s) via NVMe/FC. With ONTAP 9.5 they brought in Asymmetric Namespace Access (ANA – Storage failover) and Max Data and with 9.6 this is also a key area of focus.
The highlight in this release is the expansion of operating systems supporting NVMe. Whether that be more host operating systems support end to end NVMe connectivity with ANA or the ability to set a QoS minimum on there, or the new NetApp Validated Architectures (NVAs) for utilising NVMe; this emphasises the refinement and pedigree that the number one Storage OS displays as it strives to stay ahead of the competition and delivering new cool features to customers to use via a simple upgrade.
But why you might ask are there all these improvements for NVMe which as you may have guessed it; with this release NetApp are bringing out another end to end NVMe platform. The A320 is the new mid-range NVMe system providing extremely low latency similar to that of the A800 of 100 microseconds. With eight 100Gbe ports onboard each controller with 2 expansion slots this is a system not only suited for use in AI environments but brings the forefront of storage development to any IT project and also ties it together with the Data Fabric.
In conjunction with the A320 release NetApp are adding NVMe expansion to the portfolio with the use of the network attached shelf the NS224. This 2 rack units high 24 drive shelf will support 1.9TB 3.8TB and 7.6TB drives available at launch and the shelf connects to the A320A using RoCEv2. With the ability to add two shelves at launch to the system there’s plenty that this system can offer. Its like getting out on the open road on a Panigale V4 R.
One of the nicest features that ONTAP 9.6 brings is in the ability to now create a MetroCluster with the entry level engineered systems. Yes, that’s right the A220 and FAS2750 can now participate in a 4 node IP MetroCluster. This will be great news in the UK where we have quite a few companies that want all the benefits of a MetroCluster, but the starting point was too out of reach for their infrastructure. To further decrease the initial costs these versions can also make use of shared inter-site switching. So, if you have spare bandwidth on your current existing infrastructure then you can utilise this in your MetroCluster configuration. I am excited to see how this pans out and have already got one customer who I know will want to revisit the MetroCluster conversation from tomorrow.
This is just a few of the features and announcements that have been made today with more being announced with FlexCache, FlexGroup, ONTAP Select and NetApp Data Availability Services (NDAS) to name a few. This is an exciting time to be working with NetApp as we see the company shift gears and really open the throttle on what their technology can achieve so if you want to know more I suggest you lean in and head on over to NetApp.com