NetApp deepens flash push with new ONTAP software, all-flash systems

The new software adds software based encryption, container support and major performance and latency increases that NetApp says will continue their momentum in flash and hybrid.


Dave Mason, SVP, Global Accounts & ONTAP Programs

LAS VEGAS – At their NetApp Insight event here, NetApp made a series of announcements around their emphasis in the flash and hybrid arenas. They include an update to the ONTAP 9 software to support containers, and add encryption through the software stack. NetApp also announced new all-flash and hybrid arrays, as well as support for the Microsoft Azure cloud.

“We think this will cement and grow our position in flash,” said Dave Mason, SVP, Global Accounts & ONTAP Programs. Flash and hybrid have been top priorities of NetApp CEO George Kurian as the company pivots towards high growth areas of the storage market.

“We are ecstatic with the fact we are leading the market in a couple areas, and according to IDC, are now number two in all-flash arrays,” Mason said. “That’s very positive momentum considering we were in the 4-5 positions last year. We are really doubling down on flash.”

The enhancements to the ONTAP 9 software are designed to do just that.

“The ONTAP 9.1 software provides the engine for the new arrays we are announcing,” Mason said. “The two key themes are ONTAP anywhere and flash everywhere. They allow us to take advantage of ONTAP’s efficiencies and securities regardless of where data is.”

A key innovation is NetApp ONTAP FlexGroup, a massively scalable, high performance NAS container that allows scaling a single container up to 20PB and 400 billion files.

“FlexGroup gives organizations the capability to deal with data lakes,” Mason said. “That market is absolutely there today, especially in media and entertainment, and industries like oil and gas with telemetry coming from many different endpoints.”

NetApp ONTAP 9.1 also adds NetApp Volume Encryption, which provides granular, volume-level, software-based, encryption for data on any type of drives without needing special self-encrypting disks.

“NetApp ONTAP 9 had key management for encryption, but 9.1 has software encryption, so there is no need for encryption at the drive level,” Mason said. “It’s encrypted through the software stack.”

ONTAP support has now been expanded to the Microsoft Azure public cloud with this release, complementing the support for the AWS public cloud that has existed since November 2014.

“We have also announced a full refresh of our hybrid FAS and all-flash FAS product portfolio,” Mason said. Six new systems were announced.

The AFF A700 all-flash is the high end system, replacing the AF8080.

“It doubles the performance of the 8080, which is a year and a half old, and also halves the latency,” Mason noted.

The AFF A300 all-flash system, the midrange all-flash offering, replaces the AF8040, and has the same performance and latency benefits.

Both systems can be set-up in under 10 minutes, have greater serviceability and provide expanded support for multi-stream-write (MSW) and 15TB SSDs.

The three new hybrid flash systems are the FAS8200 for enterprise (replacing the FAS8040) and the FAS2650 and FAS2620, aimed at the entry market and replacing the FAS2240. The new models offer up to 200 per cent higher performance than their predecessors and feature integrated NVMe NetApp Flash Cache intelligent caching.

The final new model is the FAS9000 for business critical  workloads, which scales up to 14PB in a system and scales out to 172PB in a cluster.

The AFF A700 and FAS9000 both feature a new modular design.

“The platform is totally modular,” Mason said. “The motherboard can be hotswapped out and replaced over time. So can three generations of Intel processors, with no forklift upgrades. It also supports upgrades in IO modules.”

“These new systems are ideal for our channel partners,” Mason said. “Our partners are hugely invested in our flash portfolio and they see any refresh as an opportunity to capture more market.”

Mason stressed that even though NetApp is a latecomer into the flash market, they are still showing strong momentum that isn’t based on a low starting point and the exponential curve.

“We caught the wave later in the cycle, but we were building in those capabilities, like Multi-Stream Writes, into ONTAP,” he said. “We weren’t pushing all-flash arrays or FAS earlier, but once we did, we came out running and got momentum. The AFF A700 now puts us further ahead.”

Mason said NetApp still considers EMC – now the enterprise arm of Dell as Dell EMC – as its primary competitor, not the many newer companies focused on the flash part of the market.

“We have been performing better than all of these,” he said “We had 300 per cent growth year-over-year on all flash arrays. The average growth there was 75-80 per cent, so if you aren’t doing that, no matter how good your numbers sound, you are losing share.”

The new product is available now.