Setting Sail for Uncharted Waters

Today might be big day in NetApp’s history. Not only is it celebrating the companies 25th year, a 3 quarter in a row of revenue growth, 140% year on year growth in the All Flash Array (AFA) market segment or sitting in no. 2 position on revenue of AFA vendors (IDC). Nor is it just celebrating its SAN market share growing 3.6x faster than its nearest competitor, over 6.4PB of NVMe shipped or it’s SIX IT Brand Pulse awards for its Scale Out File Storage- FlexGroup. Its starting the week with a product announcement.

The 6 IT Brand Pulse awards

And whilst there may be cake and balloons at offices on East Java Drive and Kit Creek Road the company will be focused on moving forward. Today the company takes a step outside the Storage and Data Management field that it has dominated for two and a half decades, and into any area of the IT industry that has generated a lot of interest over the last couple of years that is still relatively new and unmapped the Hyper Converged Infrastructure market.

Now some of you may be saying that NetApp are quite late to the HCI game; and two, what can they possibly bring? Now remember NetApp were late off the blocks with an All Flash Array but look at the opening paragraph again to see just how well that’s now going and for what they can bring to the game then please read on.

Some of you may remember the version of EVO:rail that NetApp brought out a couple of years ago and feel they should stick to doing storage products; but the difference between that and todays launch is the fact that this time NetApp have solely led the development of this product, rather than having to follow a blueprint VMware put together for a wide and varied list of hardware vendors.

First generation HCI solutions were designed with the simplicity of deploying virtualisation technologies in mind, yet with this approach and a race to market they created limitations on performance, flexibility and consolidation. By claiming they can remove application silos by mixed workloads these limitations meant they ultimately failed at scale. These first-generation hardware offerings provided both compute and storage within the same chassis which meant that resources were tied and both requirements had to be scaled in parallel when either became low or exhausted.

NetApp approach the HCI arena and the limitations of current offerings with the Next Generation Data Centre at the core. The 4 key aspects that make up this HCI solution are: Guaranteed Performance, Flexibility and Scale, Automated infrastructure and the NetApp Data Fabric. It provides secure efficient future-proof freedom of choice.

Several of the benefits that people love about SolidFire is its ability to scale with ease; and growth is a key feature of this HCI infrastructure. With the ability to grow compute and storage independently and regardless of what your applications need, you can start small and scale online and on demand with a varying amount of configuration options to satisfy any enterprise environment. This in turn allows you to avoid overprovisioning say compute, whereby incurring unnecessary increased licensing costs, or storage whereby having excessive amounts of flash media present that would be associated with scaling traditional first generation HCI solutions.

Out of the box this solution utilises the NetApp Deployment Engine (NDE) to eliminate the majority of manual steps needed to correctly commission the infrastructure, combined with an intuitive vCenter plugin and also with a fully programmable interface to complement this scalable architecture to be truly a software defined HCI solution.

The all important front bezel

There will be a lot of interest in this enterprise-scale hyper converged infrastructure solution over the coming days and weeks I applaud NetApp for making the move into uncharted territory and I look forward to reading more about it ahead of its launch later in the year; as this solution combined with NetApp’s Data Fabric will honestly allow you to harness the power of the hybrid cloud.

Painting a Vanilla Sky

Expanding the NetApp Hybrid Cloud

During the first general session at NetApp Insight 2016 in Las Vegas, George Kurian, CEO (and a fascinating person to listen to), stated that “NetApp are the fastest growing SAN vendor and are also the fastest growing all-flash array vendor.” This is superb news for any hardware company, but for NetApp, this isn’t enough. He is currently leading the company’s transformation into one that serves you, the customer, in this new era of IT while addressing how you want to buy and consume IT. NetApp are addressing this with the Data Fabric.

If you need a better understanding of the Data Fabric, I would strongly suggest you look at this great two-part post from @TechStringy (part 1 here and part 2 here).

Back in 2001, Cameron Crowe released a film starring Tom Cruise called “Vanilla Sky.” In this, the main protagonist suffers a series of unfortunate events and rather than face up to them, he decides to have himself put in stasis until those problems could be resolved. Well, if managing data within varying cloud scenarios was his problem, then announcements made by NetApp earlier this week would mean he could be brought back and stop avoiding the issues. So let’s take a look at some of what was announced:

NetApp Cloud Sync: This is a service offering that moves and continuously syncs data between on-prem and S3 cloud storage. For those of you who attended this year’s Insight in Las Vegas, this was the intriguing demo given by Joe CaraDonna illustrating how NASA is interacting with the Mars Rover Curiosity. Joe showed how information flows back to Earth via “JPL … the hub of mankind’s only intergalactic network,” all in an automated, validated, and predictably-secure manner and how they can realise great value from that data. Cloud Sync not only allows you to move huge amounts of data quickly into the cloud, but it also gives you the ability to utilise the elastic compute of AWS, which is great if you are looking to carry out some CPU-intensive workloads like Map Reduce. If you are interested in what you have read or seen so far, head over to the here where you can now and take advantage of the 30-day free trial.

Data Fabric Solution for Cloud Backup (ONTAP to AltaVault to Cloud): For those of you who saw the presentation at Insight 2015, this is the backing up of FAS via AltaVault using Snap Center. This interaction of portfolio items gives us the ability to provide end-to-end backups of NAS data while enabling single-file restores via the snapshot catalogue function. This service has a tonne of built-in policies to choose from—simply drag and drop items to get it configured. AltaVault also now has the ability to help with seeding of your backup via the use of an AWS Snowball device (or up to ten daisy-chained together as a single seeding target) it’s never been easier to get your data into and manage in the cloud.

NetApp Cloud Control for Microsoft Office 365: This tool extends data protection, security, and compliance to your Office 365 environment to protect you from cyber-attacks and breaches in the cloud. It allows you to back up your Exchange SharePoint and OneDrive for business and vault a copy to another location, which could be an on-prem, nearby, or cloud environment, depending on your disaster recovery and business continuity policies. This is a great extension of the Data Fabric message, as we can now utilise FAS, and or ONTAP Cloud, and or AltaVault, and StorageGRID as backup targets for production environments running wherever you deem appropriate for that point in time.

NetApp Private Storage for Cloud: For customers that are after an OPEX model and see the previous NetApp Private Storage route as an inhibitor to this (due to the fact that they need to source everything themselves), this is where NPS-as-a-Service comes into its own. It gives customers the ability to approach a single source and acquire what they need to provide an NPS resource back to their company. A solution offering for NPS for Cloud is currently offered by Arrow ECS in the U.S. and is coming to Europe soon. This offering helps you create a mesh between storage systems and various clouds, giving you the ability to control where your data resides while providing the level of performance you want to the cloud compute of your choice.

ONTAP Cloud for Microsoft Azure: This is the second software-only data management IaaS offering for hyper-scalers being added to the NetApp portfolio. ONTAP Cloud gives customers the ability to apply all that lovely data management functionality that has drawn people to NetApp FAS for years layered on top of blob storage from your cloud provider. You get the great storage efficiencies and multi-protocol support with the ease of “drag and drop,” and you can manage replication to and from this software-defined storage appliance with the ability to encrypt the data whilst it resides in the cloud. This service has a variety of use cases, from providing software development or production with storage controls to utilizing it as a disaster recovery entity.

So if we are to look at an overview of the data Fabric now we can see that ability to move data around dependant on business requirements.

During his presentation at Insight 2016 George Kurian also said, “Every one of NetApp’s competitors is constructing the next data silo, or prison, from which data cannot escape.” Hopefully by Implementing the Data Fabric NetApp customers can build with confidence the IT business model which facilities a flow of information within their organisation so that can grow and adapt to meet their ever-changing IT needs.

The Data Fabric is the data management architecture for the next era of IT, and NetApp intend to lead that era. With this recent enhancement of the Data Fabric and NetApp’s portfolio, there is no more need to be shouting “Tech Support!” Instead, we can all be Monet and paint a beautiful Vanilla Sky.

Hindsight from Insight

NetApp Insight Las Vegas 2016 Roundup

I was lucky enough to get to go to Las Vegas with the NetApp A-Team and attend the NetApp Insight Americas and APAC conference. I have attended Insight EMEA many times, but this was my first time attending it on US soil

I would be remiss if I did not mention that both the Vegas and Berlin events have the same number of high-quality breakout sessions. As expected, the majority of the sessions that were offered in Vegas are re-offered in Berlin. The organisation of the conference is the same, with things like Insight Central consisting of NetApp partners and vendor showcases. From that standpoint, it felt like I could very well have been at the EMEA conference. There is also a high number of NetApp technical employees on hand to debate different deployment methodologies which is a great reason in its self to attend.

However, Vegas did seem a lot more relaxed, and with over twice as many attendees there, it somehow felt quieter due to the size of the conference centre. There’s also a lot more going on in the evenings, (even just within the Mandalay Bay Hotel, never mind the rest of Vegas) with lots of opportunities for delegates to mingle and converse.

At this year’s conference, NetApp announced 16 new products! This is a huge amount for any company, and I think it just goes to show how NetApp are trying to stay at the leading edge of the storage industry. There were disk shelves and controllers announced, and if you would like to know more about the new controllers, see my previous post here. There was also an update to ONTAP Select as well as the arrival of ONTAP Cloud for Azure, all made possible by the release of ONTAP 9.1. There was a lot of messaging in both the general sessions and in the breakouts geared towards DevOps and this new way of deploying applications either on premises or in the cloud.

This year we also had the joy of SolidFire joining in, and with a raft of sessions available, this technology did prove popular. The two-hour deep dive by Andy Roberts was the third-most attended session of the conference, and the SolidFire Hands-On Lab was the third-most requested. They also announced the integration of SolidFire into FlexPod, which my A-Team colleague Melissa Wright (@vmiss33) coined the “DevOps workhorse.” It is a perfect tag line, and one I am going to start to use.

NetApp Insight also gives you the opportunity to take NetApp certification exams, so I thought I should try some. I passed two exams whilst there: the updated FlexPod design NS0-0170 and the new Hybrid Cloud NS0-0146, which give me the NCSA accreditation. These came with some lovely luggage tags courtesy of Liz Burns from NetApp University, to  add to the certificates which I already held. This is a great way to provide value back to your employer for attending if you need a stronger reason to attend. It’s best to book your exam before you get there as it can be very busy, and you may have to wait around for a while for a walk-in appointment.

A nice colourful collection

If you are new to SolidFire and want to understand how it’s managed, the two-hour deep dive mentioned earlier is a great place to start. It’s a great mix of slideware and demonstration on how to configure various key features of the Element OS. I would also recommend Val Bercovici’s (@valb00) “Why DevOps will move to the ‘lean’ cloud” break out. This session will help you understand the shift in application development and what you can do to try and keep pace and remain relevant.

NetApp now seem to be pivoting towards messaging that helps the developer and the DevOps team, providing products and tools that will integrate into their style of working as we have seen over the years with NetApp. Below is the link to the scenario covered in the General session on the third day. I think it provides good insight into how the pace of application development is changing, the tools that this new breed of developer is adopting and using, and also how NetApp is taking this methodology seriously (as evidenced by the fact that they have a site with a host of tools and scripts aimed purely at DevOps). Also embedded in the picture below is the link to the scenario acted out on stage during the general session.

I would also recommend looking into the sessions on VMware’s vVols functionality. They’re a great primer on this area of VMware’s evolving portfolio and they also show how NetApp can utilise this ever-improving technology. Andy Banta (@andybanta, who wrote an insightful blog on the topic and appeared on GreyBeards on Storage Ep. 36) and Josh (‘the intern’) Atwell (@Josh_Atwell) gave a joint session on how SolidFire differs from conventional storage arrays in their implementation and how best to utilise policy-based storage with SolidFire. Then there was Andreas Engel from NetApp and Pete Flecha (@vPedroArrow) from VMware who provided a deploy, implement, and troubleshoot session which was almost as popular as Pete’s session at VMworld. It illustrated some handy tips, tricks, and gotchas that a lot of the audience then took with them as they headed to the Hands-on Labs to get up to speed with vVols.  I would also keep an eye out for the Inform and Delight sessions, including a great one by Veeam on “Closing the Door on the Data Center Availability Gap.” And let’s not forget the “Dave and Dave show,” which is a must-see attraction.

Also in Vegas this year attending NetApp Insight for the first time was vBrown bag. Their online presence has been helping IT professionals become more proficient with virtualisation for the past six years and is a must point of call for anyone chasing a VCP or other certification, due to the wealth of knowledge on their site. They were there to expand their ever-increasing field of topics, and one of the presentations recorded was Sam Moulton (@SamMoulton), Champion of the NetApp A-Team(@NetAppATeam) with A-Team member Trey Davis (@ntap_seal), Senior Consultant from iVision in Atlanta providing some insight into the NetApp A-Team and what we do. This short discussion (embedded within picture) will hopefully help people understand the team better and where we fit within the ecosystem.

For more information on the A-Team’s presence in Las Vegas this year, check out the session called “Birds of a Feather: Walk the line with the A-Team” which is hopefully on the site for review. There will be a strong presence in Berlin, so come up and talk to us or send us a tweet.

One of the highlights during the opening of the third general session was the reel put together from the carpool Karaoke. I would urge you to have a look and a laugh.

This was a great conference, with a phenomenal amount of superb content, too much to take on board in the four days but I will enjoy reviewing over the next few weeks. I am thankful to my employer for letting me attend and I now feel invigorated and more confident to go out and have discussions and point out why customers should be looking at NetApp for their cloud, hybrid, and on-premises storage needs. If you are heading to Berlin, then I will hopefully see you there.


ONTAP 9 A new flavour with plenty of features

 

Name change

NetApp recently announce the upcoming release of their flagship operating system for their FAS and AFF product lines. ONTAP 9 as you can glean from the name is the ninth iteration for this OS which like a fine wine keeps getting better with age. Some of you will also have noticed the simplification of the name, no more clustered, or data, just simply ONTAP. The reality is clustering is the standard way to deploy controllers which store data, so it’s not really necessary to repeat that in the name, a bit like Ikea telling you the things you can put inside a Kullen (or Hemnes or Trysil which are all improvements over the Hurdal). But the most important thing about this change is the numeral at the end, 9. This is the next new major release of the operating system providing all the features that were available in 7-mode but also so much more.

So now that we have got that out of the way let’s see what else
has changed….

New features

Let’s take a quick look at some of the new features; so grab a pen (or for the millennials your phone camera):

  • Firstly I think I should mention you can now get ONTAP in three different varieties dependant on your use case. The appliance based version, ONTAP; the Hyperscaler version, ONTAP Cloud; and the software only version ONTAP Select. This should allow for management of data where ever it exists.
  • SnapLock – Yes the feature that everybody wanted to know where it had gone when comparing cDOT with Data ONTAP 7-mode, yet less than 5% of systems worldwide used (according to ASUP) is back. WORM functionality to meet retention and compliance requirements.
  • Compaction – A storage efficiency technology that when
    combined with NetApp’s inline deduplication and compression allows you to fit even more into each storage block. More on this technology in a later post.
  • MetroCluster – Ability to scale out to up to 8 nodes. We can now have 1, 2 or 4 nodes per site as supported configurations. NetApp have also added the ability to have non mirrored aggregates on a MetroCluster.
  • On-board Key manager – which removes the need for an off box key manager system when encrypting data.
  • Windows Workgroups – Another feature making a return is the ability to setup a CIFS/SMB workgroup so now we don’t need an Active Directory infrastructure to carry out simple file sharing.
  • RAID –TEC – Triple Erasure Coding expanding on the protection provided by RAID –DP. Allowing us to add triple parity support to our RAID groups, this technology is going to be crucial as we expand to SATA drives in excess on 8TB and SSD beyond 16TB.
  • 15TB SSD support – Yes you read that right, NetApp are one of, if not the first, major storage vendor to bring you 15.3TB SSDs to market. We can utilise these with an AFF8080 giving you 1PB of guaranteed effective capacity in a 2U disk shelf!!! To continue that train of thought we could scale out to 367TB effective AFF capacity within a single cluster. This will radically change the way people think about and design datacentres of the future. By shrinking the required hardware footprint we in turn reduce the power and cooling requirements, lowering the overall OPEX for the datacentres of the future; this will lead to a hugely reduced timeframe for return on investment on this technology, which in turn will drive adoption.
  • AFF deployments – With ONTAP 9 NetApp are introducing the ability to rapidly deploy applications to use the storage within 10 minutes with one simple input screen and this wizard follows all the best practices for the selected application.

Upgrade concerns

One of the worries people previously had with regards to NetApp FAS systems was how to upgrade to a new version of the OS for your environment, especially if you had systems at both primary and DR.

Version independent SnapMirror which arrived with 8.3 is great if you have a complex system of bidirectional water-falling relationships as planning an upgrade prior to this
needed an A1 sized PERT chart to plan the event. Now NetApp allow for an automated rolling upgrade around a cluster, it should mean for those customers out there who have gone for a scale out approach to tackling their storage requirements (and I salute you on your choice) it’s the same steps if you have 2 or 24 controllers. Today you can undertake this with three commands for complete cluster upgrades which is such a slick process, heck you can even call up the API from within a PowerShell script.

How does it look?

If you look below I have a few screen shots showing some of the new interface including the new performance statics that OnCommand System Manager can now display.

Notice the new menu along the top. This helps to make moving around a lot easier.

Here we can see some of the performance figures for a cluster, as this is a sim I didn’t really drive too much IO at it, but it will be very useful once in production giving you insight to how your cluster is performing at 15 second intervals.

Another nice feature of the latest release is the search ability, which I think will come into its own in larger multi-protocol installations of several PB, helping hone in on the resource you are after quicker.

First impressions

For this article I am using a version in a lab environment and from its slick new graphical interface (see above) to the huge leaps made under the covers this OS keeps getting stronger. The GUI is fast to load even on a sim, the wizards methodical, the layout intuitive and once you start using this and have to jump back onto an 8.x version, as I did, you will appreciate the subtle differences and refinements that have gone into ONTAP 9.

Overall takeaways

With the advent of ONTAP 9 NetApp have also announce a 6 month cadence for future releases making it easier to plan for upgrades and improvements which is good news for those shops who like to stay at the forefront of technology. The inclusion of the features above and the advancements made under the cover should hopefully illustrate to you that NetApp is not a company who rests on their laurels but strives for innovation. The ability to keep adding more and more features yet making it simpler to manage, monitor and understand is a remarkable trait; and with this new major software release we get a great understanding of what this company hopes to achieve in the coming years.

This is also
an exciting upgrade for the Data fabric, as mentioned above ONTAP 9 is now available in 3 separate variants – engineered for FAS & AFF; ONTAP Select for Software Defined Storage currently running on top of vSphere or KVM; and ONTAP Cloud running in AWS and soon Azure. Businesses can now take even greater control of their data as they move to a bimodal method of IT deployment. As more and more people move to a hybrid multi-cloud model we will see people adopting these three options in varying amounts to provide the data management and functionality that they will require. As companies mix all three variations we get
what I like to call the Neapolitan Effect, which is probably one of the best of all ice-cream flavours; to their storage strategy, delivering the very best data storage and management wherever needed which is thanks to the ability of ONTAP to run simply anywhere.

So go out and download a copy today!