NetApp now shipping newly-announced AFF A800 end-to-end NVMe enterprise platform

Today, NetApp is announcing the immediate availability of their new AFF A800 all-flash storage array, an enterprise grade platform with an NVMe host controller interface that is able to achieve consistent sub-200 microsecond latency from application host through to data storage. Along with the platfom – the first of its type to actually ship – NetApp is announcing updates to their ONTAP data management software that adds support for NVMe over Fibre Channel and 30 TB SSDs, new cloud services, and a new partnership with Google that unites NetApp’s Cloud Volumes with the Google Cloud Platform to create a fully-managed, cloud-native file storage service.

“For the last four years, we have said that the world is a hybrid cloud world, and the issue is how organizations will deal with that and these hybrid cloud workloads,” said Joel Reich, Executive Vice President of Product Operations at NetApp. “We have made the jump from being a data management company to have a very strong cloud presence. That knits all these things together. Everything we do now is cloud connected, and our strategy is to bridge the private cloud to the public cloud and let people run their data and applications where they belong.”

Reich, who was part of the EMC Clariion team that brought these first end-to-end Fibre Channel SANs to market, stressed that end-to-end NVMe will have a similar impact.

“End-to-end NVMe is important, because it facilitates the type of learning needed for deep intelligence, which you can’t do with older SANs,” he said. “We are still in the first inning of how to run these new workloads – determining what should run on premise, and which of these workloads are best served in the cloud. This on-prem or cloud decision will be critical for these new workloads. That’s why NVMe-over-fabric is a great opportunity for the channel, especially for partners who specialize in new technology.”

Not all storage vendors think the NVMe market is fully enough developed to warrant bringing an end-to-end NVMe enterprise platform like the New AFF A800 to market at this time. NetApp thinks that the market is there, and that it’s a market in which few vendors can play effectively.

“There are two aspects for NVME – the media attach and the front-end connection that replaces a traditional Fibre Channel SAN,” Reich said. “NVMe drives are a great future interconnect technology and long term, drive makers will focus on that rather than SAS as their interface of choice. On the front end, NVMe is around the same cost now as Fibre Channel infrastructure. The per port price isn’t much different. But the real challenge is taking all of this new technology and having it interoperate and do multi-pathing. That requires making a big investment. We have done that with Broadcom and Samsung and other participants, establishing partner solution labs and engaging in co-operative development. This is not a small company game. The big issue will be the stability of the solution, and companies will have to be able to spend tens or hundreds of millions on new fabric infrastructure, like when Fibre Channel SANs came out. Flash has replaced SSDs, and virtualization has replaced physical servers, but the number of new things that actually require a new ecosystem has always been very small.”

NetApp’s ability to bring the NVMe front end fabric to market with the AFF A800 is critical in this respect, Reich emphasized.

Joel Reich, Executive Vice President of Product Operations at NetApp

“Aggressive marketing by some is blurring the distinction between NVMe media attach and new NVMe host fabric, but that isn’t doing customers any favours,” he said. “Most of the benefit for the user from NVMe comes from the front-end fabric, in terms of latency, IOPs and scale improvement. What connector is inside the disk array matters a lot less. That’s why our shipping the fabric here is important. No one else is shipping it yet, and we will be.”

The AFF A800  delivers up to 11.4 million IOPS and has over 700PB effective capacity. By combining the NVMe fabric with the low-latency NVMe SSDs, AFF A800 delivers below 200 μs latency and a throughput of up to 300GB/s in a 24-node cluster, to accelerate AI and machine-learning applications.

The ONTAP 9.4 update improves performance, efficiency, and data protection with the industry’s first support of 30TB SSDs and NVMe-over-Fibre Channel for select ONTAP-based systems.

“ONTAP 9.4 introduces FabricPools, which within the same file system automatically tiers cold data from an on-prem flash array to an S3 bucket in your cloud hyperscaler of choice,” Reich said. “You can also set high water marks and policies. That’s the biggest new feature in it. There are some improvements to storage security, so you can do encryption of the volume level. You can now also use SnapLock on prem or in the cloud  and make data nonwritable or WORM content there.” Another new service is Active IQ, cloud-based analytics that predicts future performance needs and identifies unprotected data to optimize operations.

Finally, NetApp announced a new partnership with Google, and an offering – NetApp Cloud Volumes for Google. It combines NetApp’s Cloud Volumes with the Google Cloud Platform to create a fully-managed, cloud-native file storage service with extreme performance and advanced data management. The service is aimed at the migration of workloads, including file services, analytics, database, disaster recovery and DevOps.

“We already had formal relationships with Azure and AWS, and now we are announcing this partnership with Google as well,” Reich said. The companies say that this is just the first step in this new partnership.