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.


The NetApp, They Are A-Changin’

 

A lot of people criticize NetApp for not moving with the times. Some of the newer start-ups like to claim that NetApp is a legacy company not in touch with today’s marketplace. Yet we all know the company has a rich and deep heritage which spans nearly a quarter of a century with over 20 of those years spent on the NASDAQ; so they must be doing something right.

They also like to say NetApp are not in touch with today’s data centre requirements. I would question that. Today NetApp launches the start of a whole new line for the FAS and All Flash FAS side of the portfolio. They have announced three new FAS models: the FAS2600, the FAS8200, and the FAS9000. And on the all-flash side, another two new models. These systems are designed with the data centre of the future in mind, and these enterprise products again deliver an industry first (NetApp were the first to support 15.3TB SSD drives), with next-generation networking in the form of 40Gbe and 32GB FC.

The FAS9000 is the new flagship of the line, and introduces a new modular design similar to what we have seen Cisco adopt to great success in the UCS line. This system has 10 PCI slots per controller which, when combined with the ability of either of the next-gen networking previously mentioned, gives HUGE amounts of bandwidth to either flash and NL-SAS drives. It also has a dedicated slot for NVMe SSD to help with read caching (aka Flash Cache) for those workloads that benefit from a read boost, and has the ability to swap out the NVRAM and controller modules separately, which is to allow for expansion upgrades in the years to come. Here are some of the numbers associated with the FAS9000: it can scale up to 14 PB (Petabytes) per high availability pair (HA pair) or up to 172PB for a 24 node (12 HA pairs) in a NAS environment. Yes, that’s up to 172PB of flash storage managed as a single entity!!

They also announced the arrival of the FAS8200, the new workhorse for enterprise workloads, delivering six 9s or greater of availability. It carries 256GB of RAM—that’s equivalent to today’s FAS8080, or 4x of what’s found in a FSA8040—with 1TB of NVMe M.2 Flash Cache as standard (which frees up a PCIe slot) and can scale to 48TB of flash per HA pair when combined with Flash Pool technology. The FAS8200 also has 4x UTA2 and 2x 10T ports on board. This system is ready to go, and if you need to add 40Gbe or 32Gb FC, this chassis will support the addition of those via cards. This 3U chassis will support up to 4.8PB and can scale out to 57PB, meeting any multi-protocol or multi-application workload requirements.

Another new member to the FAS family is the FAS2600, which replaces the ever popular FAS2500 series. For this market space, disk and controllers contained within the same chassis are prevalent, and the trend that started with the original FAS2000 (maybe even the good ole StoreVault) is still here today, with the FAS2600 offering similar options as the FAS2500 but now with SAS3 support. We have the FAS2620, which supports large form factor drives, whilst the FAS2650 supports the smaller variants. Something that is new to the FAS2000 series is the inclusion of Flash Cache, and the FAS2600 has received the gift of NVMe with 1TB standard per HA pair. Also, changes to the networking have been made. No longer do we have dedicated Gbe ports. Instead, they have change them to 10Gbe, which are for cluster interconnects, scaling up to 8 nodes in this range, and can now use all 4 UTA2 ports for data connectivity. And if you still require 1Gbe, it can be achieved via SFPs for these UTA2 ports (X6567-R6 for optical and X6568-R6 for RJ45).

NetApp, a company that, for some, may not be known for its flash portfolio, yet has sold north of 575PB of the stuff, have also announced two new controllers for the All-Flash Array (AFA) space; the A300 and the A700. These systems are designed purely for flash media, and it shows with the A300 supporting 256GB of RAM whilst the A700 runs with a terabyte of RAM (1024GB)! This huge jump will allow for a lot more processing from the 40Gb and 32Gb networks whilst still delivering microsecond response times. For this ultra-low latency, we are looking at either products like the Brocade X6 director for FC or Cisco’s 3132Q-V for Ethernet to meet these ever-increasing demands.

These new systems will support the world’s number one storage OS: ONTAP version 9.1 and beyond, with this new release also announced today. ONTAP 9.1 in itself has some improvements over the previous versions. We have seen some major boosts to performance, especially in the SME space with the FAS2600 gaining a 200% performance improvement over the previous generation with the FAS8200, and with the FAS9000, about 50% better than their predecessor. The new stellar performer in AFA space is the A700. This new AFA has been reported to handle practically double the workload of an AFF8080 running an Oracle database which is another huge leap in performance.

There are a couple of other nice new features in ONTAP 9.1 which I will mention here, but won’t go into too much detail on. The first would be FlexGroups, which is a single namespace spanning multiple controllers scaling all the way to 20PB or 400 billion files (think infinite volumes but done a lot better). Then there’s cloud tiering: the ability of an AFA to utilise an S3 object store for its cold data—now that’s H. O. T. HOT! ONTAP 9.1 also brings us volume-level encryption, which will work with any type of drive and only encrypt the data that needs it. The Data Fabric also gets an upgrade, with the inclusion of ONTAP Cloud for Azure, which has been a while behind the cloud version for AWS but is worth the wait. And finally we also get the ability with the Enterprise products running ONTAP 9.1 to scale to 12 nodes within a single SAN cluster(that’s the ability to add another 4 nodes).

On another note, NetApp did launch another new box just a couple of weeks ago; the new E2800 sporting the SANtricity OS 8.30, also available in AFA variants and delivering over 300,000 IOPS in a box designed for small and mid-sized businesses. Which like the SolidFire side of the portfolio should not be over looked if it meets all of your desired requirements.

So come gather round people, writers and critics alike. Take a good look. I think we can safely say, that NetApp is a keeping, itself in the game and delivering platforms that go beyond tomorrow’s requirements.

But the big question everyone wants to know is, “What does it look like?” For the answer to that, you should be at NetApp Insight!

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!