NetApp Insight 2016: Adding New Threads to the Data Fabric

Jon Woan & Dave HitzBy Jon Woan, IT Operations Manager, Vital Energi, NetApp A-Team member


One of the most important parts of NetApp Insight (and NetApp as a whole) is the community. At this year’s Insight conference in Berlin, I took a couple of hours each day to meet with other customers and NetApp partners to discuss business and IT challenges and how to solve them. The value of the community cannot be underestimated, and so it is to that end that I am happy to announce my newly-minted membership in the NetApp A-Team! I’m excited to share my love of NetApp with a broader audience and to help bring the valuable feedback of a customer to the NetApp community at large.


I have attended the annual conference for the past two years and have found it invaluable. As a customer, it gives me the ability to see the high-level picture in the large general sessions, then to dig deeper into the products that make up the Data Fabric in the smaller breakout sessions. This year, I was keen to discover which threads had been added into the Data Fabric we heard about last year and to better understand where SolidFire fits into the NetApp portfolio. Here’s my summary from this year’s event, focusing on a few key points that interested me the most.


What About GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)?

Sheila Fitzpatrick gave a fantastic session on what’s to come when GDPR goes live in May of 2018. One of the first things she mentioned was that there will be substantial increases in fines for failing to comply, with the highest reaching “€20 million or 4% of global annual turnover for the preceding financial year, whichever is greater.”


This sends a powerful message to businesses to sit up and pay attention. There are now real financial incentives to get compliant. Encryption is essential, but it’s only one piece of the jigsaw. Where you store your data and where you run it from are equally as important.


That being said, the “right to be forgotten” component of GDPR is going to be a challenge. When a person requests data to be deleted (after regulatory periods have expired), it will be interesting to see how effectively data mining tools will be able to locate that data and delete it.


New Threads in the Data Fabric

The NetApp Data Fabric offers rich data management capabilities and the high performance needed to move workloads and data into or near the cloud whenever you want. This is accomplished using ONTAP Cloud (available in Azure or AWS configurations) or NetApp Private Storage, hosted in an Equinix data centre. Note that this is not a one-way stream:  should you want to get data out of the cloud, just replicate it back to your data centre or to another cloud provider.


This mobility is key today and will continue to be just as important in the coming years. As a customer, one of the biggest risks my business is concerned with is vendor “lock in,” so having a platform that enables me to move data into, out of, and across different cloud providers is a distinct advantage.


Another awesome development of the Data Fabric is replication from ONTAP to AltaVault. This capability will be available very shortly, enabling you to replicate your data straight into AltaVault, which is available in either a physical or a virtual appliance. I think the “unified replication” message is really powerful. I am looking forward to being able to replicate data across different products (ONTAP, E-Series, SolidFire, etc.) in the future to fully utilise all the products in the NetApp Portfolio without feeling like my data is stored on an island.


SolidFire and the Future of NetApp

There have been lots of articles stating that SolidFire is the end of ONTAP. In my opinion, that is certainly not the case, because they are two very different products.


SolidFire’s true scale-out architecture is a major differentiator. Adding capacity or performance is easy—just add another node and the SolidFire cluster will do the lifting and shifting of the data to re-balance the cluster. Eliminating noisy neighbours is simple and efficient via sophisticated Quality of Service settings. Losing multiple disks is not a problem because there are no lengthy RAID rebuilds. Within a couple of minutes, the data is automatically redistributed—no administrator action required.


From a service provider perspective, SolidFire hits all the sweet spots:  reliability, predictable performance, and low administrative overhead. I also see some use cases outside of that space in large database workloads and VDI deployments.


ONTAP offers something different:  rich data management, easy movement of data to a hyperscaler to leverage new applications or mass compute, and the ability to start with a small deployment then scale up and out.


Cloud Sync and Fabric Pools

Cloud Sync allows you to sync data from your on-premises infrastructure to Amazon S3. It’s vendor agnostic, so you can store data on storage from any vendor as long as it’s an NFS volume.


Another upcoming feature, Fabric Pools, will enable you to connect to an object store to form a “hybrid aggregate.” This will allow ONTAP to push cold data to an object store to keep you lean and mean onsite, with no intervention from the administrator. Pushing cold data or snapshot copies to another tier of storage and having ONTAP manage the eviction and retrieval will be very useful.


There were lots of other great announcements and bits of information at this year’s events, and I encourage you to look to our other NetApp A-Team members for detailed round-ups.


Jon WoanAbout Jon
Twitter - @jonwoan
Jon Woan is an IT Operations Manager at Vital Energi based in Manchester. He is responsible for solving business challenges in the energy sector. He’s passionate about all things tech, and like the rest of the A-Team, is a NetApp die-hard. He’s also a big time Manchester United Fanboy, and a season ticket holder. When he’s not at the office, he enjoys hitting the range and taking out IT-related aggression on some clay pigeons.