The Five Differences Between NetApp and EMC

NetApp and EMC are two dominant suppliers in the $25B enterprise data storage industry.  As such, I am often asked what makes NetApp different from EMC or, why someone might choose to purchase products from either company.  In answering, I explain that in the 30-odd years I worked in the data storage industry, I’ve seen five distinct differences emerge between these two companies:


     1. EMC thinks mainframe; NetApp thinks open systems (you can’t change your DNA)


EMC was born in 1979 and made a name selling memory boards for large IBM mainframes.  In 1990, they introduced the Symmetrix “Integrated Cached Storage Array” for these same mainframes.  Over time, as mainframes declined and open systems servers arose, EMC transitioned the Symmetrix into an open system storage array with mainframe-class features. EMC developed a loyal following amongst mainframe IT workers who appreciated the toughness that the Symmetrix brought.


NetApp came along in 1992; about the same time that EMC was in transition to open systems.  In contrast to EMC, NetApp started with a clean slate and designed a networked storage array specific to UNIX and Widows file servers. Using a stripped-down design approach, NetApp built an early base of loyal customers that appreciated the simplicity and efficiency of a purpose-built storage array.


     2. EMC believes in a different tool for each job, NetApp believes one tool can do many jobs


Recognizing that not everyone required a mainframe-tough storage array, EMC expanded its storage lineup over time by acquiring storage arrays from Data General (1999), Data Domain (2009), and Isilon (2010). As a result, EMC today delivers 4 different storage platforms, each with its own architecture and a feature set suited for particular applications and IT workload environments.  This group of 4 architectures consists of 20 distinct products which include Symmetrix VMAX (2 models), Isilon (9 models), Data Domain (4 models), and VNX (5 models).  Customers who like lots of choices appreciate the breadth of EMC’s storage products.


Also recognizing that customers have varying needs, NetApp took a different path – a single storage architecture that provides a uniform set of ever-expanding features that can be enabled as needed.  The NetApp FAS (Fabric Attached Storage) system is a group of 8 models within a common architecture.  These systems share a mutual set of capabilities and communicate using a universal API.  FAS systems can be deployed individually or within large virtual system clusters. Customers who prefer simplicity and efficiency appreciate the building-block approach of NetApp’s single storage architecture.



     3. EMC believes in expansion via acquisition; NetApp believes in internal innovation



Since 1996, EMC has acquired over 50 companies; or roughly 1 company every 100 days. As such, it is evident that EMC utilizes acquisition as their chief method in advancing product scope and competitiveness.  Customers who prefer diverse holding companies consider EMC as an alternative to individual, less solvent, start-ups.


Since 1996, NetApp completed 9 acquisitions. With each acquisition, there was a strong affinity to the core business of enterprise storage arrays. While needed technology was picked up in these acquisitions, the majority of NetApp’s innovation and product competitiveness comes from within. Customers who appreciate technology-focused companies prefer NetApp’s design approach, with a truly unified architecture and a steady flow of industry-first features.


     4. Storage arrays are one of many EMC segments, but the only segment of NetApp.



EMC’s revenues are comprised of 4 segments: virtual infrastructure, information security, information intelligence, and information storage.  Storage arrays (within the information storage segment) contribute approximately 25% ($10.09B) to EMC’s overall annual revenue. Customers looking beyond storage arrays and seeking security, analytics, and virtualization software consider EMC.


NetApp’s revenues are derived from a single segment: enterprise data storage systems, with storage arrays contributing nearly 70% ($4.21B) of overall annual revenue.  Customers looking for a company with a singular focus on enterprise storage innovation choose NetApp.


     5. Service revenue plays a greater part in EMC’s strategy than NetApp’s.


EMC’s information storage service revenue ($4.2B) represents more than 45% of overall product sales.  This may be attributed to EMC’s mainframe background, where onsite engineers were the norm.  According to EMC, “a growing demand for professional services also contributed to the increase in services revenues.”  Customers who require close personal contact with their vendor’s engineers consider EMC.


NetApp’s service revenue ($1.2B) represents less that 30% of overall product sales.  As summarized in this article, “Unlike larger competitors such as EMC, IBM and HP, NetApp has never really treated services as a distinct business within the company, but rather as a way to meet customer needs and support the product business.” NetApp has built a strong following of customers who prefer automated management tools such as AutoSupport and Workflow Automation (WFA) in lieu of expensive onsite support.


Summary – “Working with NetApp just feels different”


This comment comes up so often in customer briefings I feel compelled to mention it.  Some people say the personalities of the two companies just reflect typical east coast (EMC) vs. west coast (NetApp) attitudes, but I think the analysis goes much deeper.  When people make a large purchase, they feel better when they believe that their vendor is completely committed to their success. This is not to say that EMC is uncommitted to the success of their customers, but that NetApp seems better at developing a tight bond between the customer and vendor, with the highest quality and competency rankings amongst all enterprise storage vendors.

on ‎2012-10-24 01:22 PM

Larry, yet another example of the differences between NetApp and EMC is how you both implemented NAND/SSD storage.  NetApp first going with a PCIe solution in the controller and EMC going with SSDs.


on ‎2012-10-24 01:54 PM

Point 3, too bad, Netapp didn't do or tried acquisition?!

Sorry, little bit too easy those 5 points.

if you can't beat them, bash them?!

on ‎2012-10-24 01:56 PM

Larry, this captures many of the comments I hear from customers.  This morning in the RTP NetApp EBC I heard this one “we want to use our storage, not manage it”.  Having ONTAP as the only OS is very appealing.


on ‎2012-10-24 02:07 PM

Ray you are right that Flash is a rather large technical distinction, in this blog I focused on cultural and philosophical differences.  Maybe I should do another post on technical differences...


on ‎2012-10-24 02:10 PM

Sorry IntelligentDMS, bashing is not my style.  I've always thought that was a sign of desperation.


on ‎2012-10-24 06:00 PM



I would like to point out that I'm a storage engineer who does not work for NetApp and while I agree with all five of Larry's points, I didn't feel at all like this article was the least bit derogatory. If this seemed offensive to you, I could show you some of EMC's tactics that would make you fall out of your seat.


This is a NetApp community consisting of NetApp end users, partners, and employees. We're hungry to learn more about the differences and innovation NetApp has to offer.

I respect your opinion, but I wholeheartedly disagree with your response. Plus, It's not like he spray painted this on EMC's sidewalk during a product launch

on ‎2012-10-26 09:19 AM

#1 - lately EMC moved (with some acquisition) to open systems. the DNA is evolving.

#2 - till now, with acquisition they are trying to close the gap.

#3 - acquisition - some time to be able to catch up or event to introduce a breakthrough, you must use acquisition

#4 - there are days I wish we had broader solutions spec, beyond Storage only, customers do look for it.

#5 - shame, we should quote more services, it shows that service and tech presence on customers sites create great stickiness, and brings a lot of leads home.

did I mentioned acquisitions?

on ‎2012-10-29 08:13 PM

While I agree with some of what your wrote about EMC's DNA, points 4 and 5 are really clutching at straws!

4. Storage arrays are one of many EMC segments, but the only segment of NetApp

I never thought a broader portfolio of data management and technology products could actually be a negative?

5. Service revenue plays a greater part in EMC’s strategy than NetApp’s.

If enterprise customers want to pay for a resident tech to maintain the storage infrastructure is that really a bad thing?

As Tal Meiron says above, these could be considered two pitfalls of dealing with Netapp.

Even point 3 is a bit strange, EMC acquires new technology to expand its product portfolio like RSA and CLARiiON and on ground breaking technology like VMWare.

How is investing in new technology a bad thing?

NetApp Employee on ‎2012-10-30 08:59 AM

Craig, thanks for your comments, allow me explain further:

#3 - EMC has made a decision to diversify well beyond storage arrays.  If you are good at many things its hard to be great at anything.

#4 - The era is silo'd storage is coming to a close.  Yes a broad storage portfolio is a good thing, but disparate and overlapping products are not.  Customers are realizing that a universal storage pool that supports the majority of their application workloads is much more effective and requires less management.  In the face of monumental data growth, this is pretty important.

#5 - Some customers want their vendors to do all the work and hide any potential problems from them.  This decision comes with a cost but ultimately its the customer's decision where they want to spend their money.  I didn't make a judgement here, just pointed out a strong differentiation in NetApp and EMC's philosophy.

Hope that helps,


on ‎2012-11-06 04:10 AM

Hi Larry

Even as a strong NetApp believer, there are a few gaps in your comparison...

"The NetApp FAS (Fabric Attached Storage) system is a group of 8 models within a common architecture"

Is not fully true... If you count the 8 models and add cluster_mode to the picture you are at 14 models, and lets not forget the E-Serise which add another 6 models...

"Aquisition vs Innovation"

I remember NetApp buying Spinnaker Networks, which is THE major building block for cluster_mode... So much for that. Sure, it is integrated in an innovative way, but that took also long enough and many tries.


I think many of your colleagues must be giving you some strange looks when you meet them in the NetApp Cafeteria... NetApp is not just about Storage Arrays... It's about software like Ontap and what about SnapManager, SnapDrive, OnCommand etc ???

"NetApp feels different... "

this IS definitely true and something I've experienced personaly for the last 13 years!

Keep the good stuff coming, meaning HW and SW solutions that just work! Thank you, NetApp...

on ‎2012-11-06 05:33 PM

6) EMC is a business; NetApp is a cult

For good or ill, NetApp reps convey a whiff of the True Believer, which most EMC reps don't (at least, not the ones I've talked to). While NetApp definitely has some cool, interesting technology, there are also some weak points in the product set, and it doesn't seem to me that NetApp reps want to hear about product defects or inadequacies.

7) EMC cares about user interface design

NetApp products remain primarily command-line driven, and the GUI tools tend to be semi-functional at best, while there are very few operations in EMC storage array management which can't be driven from the GUI, making EMC products easier to deploy and manage, by and large.

on ‎2012-11-06 05:47 PM

Hate? Is that you?

Sent from my iPhone

on ‎2012-11-06 06:38 PM

Don't get me started on GUIs!!!!!!!

5 pieces of software to run and monitor a few storage arrays!

System Manager, Operations Manager, Netapp Management Console, Protection Manager and Insight Balance....Urrrrggggghhhh!!!

Please, start again and get it right!!!

on ‎2012-11-07 08:25 AM

Thank you for illustrating my point. I make a criticism of NetApp, you respond by accusing me of hate, which is the knee-jerk response of the rabid fanboy.

on ‎2012-11-07 01:40 PM

CCOLEMAN, you appear to be taking any criticism of Netapp quite personally?

While I agree that this is a NetApp community consisting of NetApp end users etc, most of us end users work with a variety of of storage arrays from a variety of vendors.

I myself have Hitachi, Oracle, EMC and IBM arrays as well as my Netapps.

We should be allowed to share our opinions, both positive and negative and also disapprove if we don't agree with someone else's opinion.

NetApp Employee on ‎2012-11-07 01:45 PM

You said "and the GUI tools tend to be semi-functional at best".

What would you like to see improved? Or can you be more specific?

on ‎2012-11-07 02:06 PM

I am happy to be more specific. First of all, there's the point that craigbeckman makes, which is that you have a whopping great set of separate applications for each function. Apart from that, here's by-no-means-comprehensive list of stuff you can't see/do in System Manager:

  • Change network configuration
  • Add disks (take ownership)
  • Remove disks
  • Run/configure reallocate
  • Perform cluster failover
  • Run Data OnTAP upgrades
  • Generate autosupports
  • Etc.

Basically, there's a lot of stuff that you can't do from the GUI, whereas EMC's Unisphere allows you to do just about everything.

on ‎2012-11-07 02:22 PM


If you're referring to my response below? I only meant it as a silly response to a silly answer.

It's just painful to see responses that are not designed to identify useful feedback or pinpoint elements that can be changed productively. In fact, if you solved whatever problem they're complaining about, they STILL wouldn't become enthusiastic contributors. No, they're just wallowing in the negative ions, enjoying the support of a few others as they dish about what's holding them back.

These forums are a tool, and unfortunately sometimes in order to keep the integrity of this tool - you have to acknowledge the people who are devoted to looking for something to complain about.


I agree with you. .

NetApp Employee on ‎2012-11-07 03:25 PM

Thanks for the feedback. There is a newer version of System Manager which addresses the majority or your concerns. 2.0.2 is the current version.

  • Change network configuration
    • Configuration -> Network -> Network Interfaces : You can configure VIFS, VLANS, and Aliases (oh my)
  • Add disks (take ownership)
    • When disks are added to the system they are automatically assigned if the disk auto assign option is enabled. By default, this option is enabled. In most examples this is sufficient for customers.  I'm sure you would have a very specific reason to take ownership of a disk already added to the system. But you are correct, taking ownership of disks is not currently available through System Manager.
  • Remove disks
    • Again, this is not a common task and it is currently not a part of System Manager.
  • Run/configure reallocate
    • There is a lot of discussion around this topic. I'm not even going to go there. Correct, it is not currently part of System Manager.
  • Perform cluster failover
    • Click on HA Configuration -> Takeover (You can issue all of the cf commands via this screen)
  • Run Data OnTAP upgrades
    • I believe this is a feature that is actively being worked on. (On a side note, at least years ago I know EMC didn't want customers updating their own software, perhaps things have changed now). We have always given customers control over their own infrastructure, even if only sometimes through the command line.
  • Generate autosupports
    • Configuration -> System Tools -> AutoSupport -> Test

It seems like System Manager allows you to do just about everything as well.

NetApp is constantly working to improve their products through internal innovation. Your feedback is important to us and I will be sure to pass it along.

on ‎2012-11-07 03:37 PM

Hi, and thanks for the detailed feedback. I did learn some things about System Manager's capabilities, so thanks for that as well.

We are currently running 2.0.2, and it's been confirmed elsewhere that modifying the network configuration is disabled by design in that version.

Since we're running an HA cluster, I'm assuming that auto-assign is disabled by default, since there's no way to know which node should take ownership. For us, assigning disk ownership is a semi-frequent occurrence, whenever we expand the cluster's capacity.

In re: "It seems like System Manager allows you to do just about everything as well," I would say that it can do about 1/3 of the things that I mentioned above, which is somewhat less than "just about everything" in my book. For me, "just about everything" would include 90% of all administrative tasks (not just "common" ones), which it's a long way away from.

NetApp Employee on ‎2012-11-07 04:01 PM

I apologize, I got my versions mixed up. You are correct, 2.0.2 has the bug where you can't modify the network config. So that is a version issue not a product issue.

If you are assigning your own disks then you probably don't have the option disk.auto_assign turned to on. In most examples this is enabled.

So if you give me those two then that gives us 4/7, sounds like the majority. But if you don't agree then we get 3/7 at best.

If you feel like 90% is where we need to be, then that's fine. I would be interested to see what the percentage would be if we listed all of the features and functions out. Sounds like we are only falling short (in your opinion) in a few areas. So that means fortunately we don't have that far to go. I just want to be sure that we don't discount all the great things that System Manager can do.

NetApp Employee on ‎2012-11-08 01:55 PM

Great summary!

on ‎2012-11-09 09:28 AM

Interesting thoughts and I expect them to be biased.

1. Yes EMC got started on the mainframe and it is a very good reason why their VMAX solutions are unrivaled for perfomance and availabiliy. I know quite a few big companies who consolidated from smaller arrays to VMAX because of this. So what you see as a negative, many of us see as a positive. My only complaint would be to have the same best in any class technology move down the stack to a lower price point.

2. Do they have too many tools or realize that not one tool fits everything? That is always up for debate. NetApp buying Engenio could be seen as an acknoledgement that one things can be great at everything. Certainly Apple would disagree this thinking. More important is to have a consistent set of managment tools regardless of the underlying storage engine.

3. Growth. EMC is close to $22B in revenue. Their strategy was to get to market quickly (and in some cases outbid NetApp such as for Data Domain and Extreme IO). NetApp is sitting on alot of cash.  EMC is growing their market share at NetApp's expense. While I would agree doing successful acquisitions and integration is difficult, this is a double edge sword. NetApp spent many years (maybe too many?) to get to cluster mode when they could have bought someone like an Isilon. EMC is growing that line quickly.

4. While storage is a rapidly growing market based on PBs shipped, customers are looking for solutions that best fit their needs. NetApp at first dismissed VCE and then did Flexpod. Next they dismissed EMC VSPEX and then followed months later with ExpressPod. Microsoft and Oracle are trying to drive down the value of storage. I think EMC is being smart in some ways and NetApp following their lead is an acknowledgement of that.

5. I can't comment on the service numbers but the question you should be asking is for implementing storage or solutions? EMC has a strong track record in big data as one example. Are customers hiring them to help create a competitive advantage?  Even Microsoft has jumped into services big time with over 14,000 consultants and a sale force carrying quota for services. The fact that NetApp has chosen not enter this market is their direction and choice.

To sum it up, yes EMC and NetApp are very different companies. The question is which one is moving the right direction the fastest. The market will decide that over the next years.

on ‎2012-11-15 08:59 PM

3. EMC believes in expansion via acquisition; NetApp believes in internal innovation  "Since 1996, EMC has acquired over 50 companies; ... Since 1996, NetApp completed 9 acquisitions. With each acquisition, there was a strong affinity to the core business of enterprise storage arrays."

I think that you have to look at what NetApp has done with the 9 acquisitions to EMCs 50 companies.  While you state that most of NetApp's innovation comes from within, you can see that the only successful acquisitions are those that do not require changes to Ontap.  We are entering into a period where every element in a Data Center will be commoditized.  NetApp will need to be more than a disk vendor to be a viable player in 2020...


Product Family


Internet MiddleWare

NetCache web caching solution, acq. 1997

Sold to Blue Coat Systems in 2006


Scale out NAS, acq. 2004

Controlled release of  ONTAP GX in 2006.  Redeployed as ONTAP 8-C mode.


VTL solution, acq. 2005

Shut down in 2010


Security Appliance, acq. 2005

Shut down in Feb 2011


CDP solution, acq. 2006

ReplicatorX, SnapMirror for Open Systems

Shut down on 2009


Storage management software, acq. 2008 Renamed SANscreen

SANscreen, renamed OnCommand Insight

(SANscreen + Akkori BalancePoint)

Data Domain

B2D Appliance, attempted acq. 2009

Failed acquisition attempt in 2009


Object storage solution, acq. 2010

StorageGRID, not widely deployed


Performance and capacity analytics, acq. 2011

OnCommand Insight

SANscreen + Akkori BalancePoint)


LSI Storage Platforms, acq. 2011

NetApp E-Series

on ‎2012-11-20 01:01 PM

I have followed both companies quite a bit. I agree there is a big culture difference between the two and the fact that both have reached great success in the same market segment with drastically different cultures is quite an interesting study.

That being said, I have my own thoughts to add...

There is a big asterisk missing on the "one product that does everything" claim being made....that phrase should read "one product that does everything, sort of." If you want scale out, cluster mode can scale out, but not as good as true scale-out like Isilon. If you want deduplication, you can have deduplication, but not as good as a purpose built deduplication appliance. etc. etc.

Netapp arrays can do alot of things, and do them well -- the problem is, it doesn't seem like there is anything  that can be said they do best. Which brings me to my next point....

As far as acquisitions go....last time i checked, no one  has a monopoly on good ideas and products. There is a very long list of companies no longer in business that thought they were the only ones who could have a good idea. While internal innovation is a great thing, there are simply too many smart people in the world to think that the only technology breakthroughs can be generated internally. In fact, this type of over-confidence is what allowed Netapp to sneak up on EMC many years ago in the first place.

Lastly -- while yes, EMC started their rise by "thinking mainframe", today they can be clearly classified as a company that "thinks virtualization." I cant say that i agree with saying otherwise. Obviously Netapp is no slouch in the virtualization integration category either but when you look at the entire portfolio from storage through backup, EMC starts to stand out as having the value proposition to help virtualize more, faster and with less risk. 

just my two cents....

on ‎2012-12-03 11:45 AM

Point 4 it seems to me from what you wrote that Netapp is not focusing enough on Big Data concept.

Combining SANs with analytics adds value to simple storage array.

on ‎2013-04-09 02:43 AM

Which one is cheaper outta the NetApp and EMC?

on ‎2013-04-09 07:07 AM

???  NetApp acquired a block storage comapny and failed to acquire DataDomain.

on ‎2013-04-09 09:50 AM

Guest wrote:


Which one is cheaper outta the NetApp and EMC?


How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

on ‎2013-05-05 06:23 PM

Interesting article - Although, I do think NetApp is diversifying their portfolio with E-Series and the Flash Array products. I think this is the right move and will help NetApp exploit new market opportunities with leading edge technology and without subtracting revenue from their original product set. It's another difference between EMC and NetApp. Some of EMC's storage acquisitions created product overlay and redundancy between offerings. From a customer perspective, a lot of independent knowledge is required for each in order to manage all, and revenues may be down on some businesses due to the substitution effect. On the other hand, NetApp seems to making efficient business decisions by selecting products that broaden a like-portfolio without creating redundancy and overlay. It is a simplified approach, and they are known for it.

on ‎2013-07-07 11:11 AM

One great advantage EMC has got is that they have both HW and SW built in house.

EMC's strategy is way far ahead of NetApp to ever catch up. They go out conquer and establish their own rules.

Every acquisition has been paying off well to EMC ... (VMware, Avamar, Networker, RSA, Documentum, DataDomain etc).

EMC's marketing is a class apart. Those folks can even sell a dogs #### to customers with ease.

With every products they acquire, they have a huge customer base, huge revenues and in-turn, the patents and technology to invent more.

NetApp is completely software driven. They have one and only product ONTAP. Its a huge complexity in its own. It is fine tuned to run on IBM HW with limited expansion opportunities.

NetApp's market is dependent on either Hyper-V or VMware. 90% of VMware customers go with EMC. Microsoft on the other hand is not a big hit when it comes to Hyper-V ...

on ‎2013-09-01 11:48 PM

Interesting article to say the least. If all applications were created equal one platform may make sense. Unfortunately there are different workloads and one size does not fit all. I have always looked at Netapp as the solution for iSCSI and NFS. I have never been impressed with NetApp performance on the SAN. I agree Netapp has a place in the market, thus the demand for filers. EMC Storage, VNX, VMAX are much better systems, easy to use, scalable and provide solid performance. Why did Netapp look for enginio if the filers were so good. Why did Netapp look to acquire Data Domain if the technology was merely good. Sometimes you have to eat your own sauce. EMC is a forward thinking company with acquisitions that span storage, virtualization, security, data analytics, management, object storage, cloud computing. As a customer, I did not like Decru. One of the reasons Netapp does not acquire companies is because Netapp is poor in executing acquisitions. It was never about innovation from within. If you are going to pick 5 reasons why Netapp is better, I suggest you at least spend five minutes with someone who has worked with EMC, HP, iBM technology and reason why Netapp is better technology. You gave five reasons why NetApp is better, but you also gave me 5 minutes to reflect why EMC makes more sense as a storage vendor.

on ‎2013-09-04 07:29 AM

I am not sure that could have been answered better than this.

on ‎2013-09-19 04:42 AM

Good reply, but "VNX are better" ... SERIOUSLY ???!!!  rofl & lol

on ‎2014-03-14 06:27 PM

I have been an HP, EMC, Equal Logic, Sun and now NetApp storage customer. NetApp is clearly the best choice for what I work with, which is highly virtualized open systems environments, and we are all FC for our block based storage. We use VMware for our hypervisor - that guy who said 90% of vmware customers choose EMC has no idea what he is talking about.

I completely disagree that EMC storage is easier to use, more scalable than NetApp (or any other storage company). Sure they provide solid performance, but everyone does.

I have spent a lot of time working with customer requirements for Symmetrix, and have a lot of experience admining clariions and VNX gear. We have one VNX left and two CX4s left to get rid of, and I can't wait to not have to deal with EMC any more.

EMC is great at selling things. Their sales people are also incredible liars. I have not once met an EMC sales person that did not wholeheartedly lie through their teeth about capabilities. VMware has very little to do with EMC. They are very fortunate to own most of it, but from a customer standpoint, VMware has very little to do with my relationship with EMC, and vice versa.

So back on topic. Symmetrix/VMAX gear is incredibly complicated. 90% of the customers of these products need help setting this gear up, and if they have staff in house to deal with it - they can't help you with any other gear because it is not like any other product out there. Its great stuff, but its expensive, takes up a ton of floor space, and requires a lot of care and feeding. I remember one company wanted to power it down for a UPS test, and EMC charged them $3000 to send a qualified EMC tech to turn it off an back on. Makes me understand why emc is so good at making money.

After being an HP EVA admin (it’s a shame HP didn’t develop the EVA, talk about easy and solid FC storage), I moved to Clariions. Nothing could be more painful. Clariion/VNX is complicated, and very inefficient. Clariion/VNX support is atrocious. Navisphere is one of the most unintuitive interfaces in the world, and unisphere really isn't a whole lot better. Performance monitoring on a clariion is not easy, and you have to pay for it. Seriously, you need to pay to get performance monitoring.

Sure, NetApp gui tools don't let you do everything, and maybe that's not a terrible thing. Navisphere/Unishere doesn't let you do anything either. Ever try to delete a lun that was part of a mirrorview pair that for some reason was mysteriously still in use? It happens, and you have to whip out the cli to fix it.

With NetApp the admin tool will show me some performance info. If that's not enough, I can use the performance monitoring tool which is better than anyone's. It takes very little time to set up and configure, and is incredibly intuitive.

Let's get on to what makes NetApp gear better than EMC:
NetApp dedupe works. With flash cache it is awesome. We reboot 20 windows 2008 R2 boxes on a deduped lun, and after the first blocks get loaded into cache, they all fly to ctrl-alt-del. Do that with 400 machines, and boot storms are a thing of the past. Plus we save over 60% of our storage space with thin provisioning and dedupe.

VNX had thin provisioning for years, but don't use it if you can't accept a 60% performance hit (I have heard that they fixed this) VNX2 now has dedupe, but I wouldn't go near it for a few years. EMC begged us not to switch the NetApp, but every solution they had to counter NetApp's proposal was 25% more, would have taken up 50% more floor space, and would have required far more investments vs netapp just to add disks (no dedupe, so you had to buy even more). VNX2 comes out, and there is no in place upgrade. Have to buy all new gear. Yay.

Snapmirror works.
Mirrorview sucks. Recoverpoint sucks slightly less, but to talk about complicated. Try growing a mirrored lun with recoverpoint, and then do the same thing with NetApp/Snapmirror. Recoverpoint is fraught with possibilities to press the wrong button and delete a ton of data. NetApp is a 2 minute change, with resync of data. Want to mirror nas data? There's another product for that! Woo Hoo, more money for the EMC rep.

EMC support is horrible. Talking to people in foreign lands that want you to get SP collects every time you have a bad drive just to tell you that you might get one in a few days!!!! NetApp contacts us when a drive goes bad, and ships the part to the site before we have even opened our email. NetApp support has people on the other end that know more than we do about our storage systems, and they escalate issues quickly. We waited 8 days to get a drive once. Let’s not even go into how much EMC support costs vs. other vendors.

I haven't even gotten to the filer portion. We have turned off all of our Windows and linux file servers, and its all a piece of cake performance, failover and functionality are excellent.

EMC's filers are just special emc servers that plug into the block storage system. You have to allocate specific disks to the filer heads that are independent of the block storage. Unified to them means you write them one check. Have spare disk space on the block side, but not on the filer side? Have to buy more disks. Another PO for EMC.

Anyway, spend five minutes with me, and I can tell you all kinds of reasons why NetApp fas systems are the best out the for 98% of the Open Systems environments in the wild. Sure, there are those environments that need a giant RAID 10 SAS or all flash array that are going to do database transformations for hours on end, but they are probably just poorly coded in the first place.

on ‎2014-03-16 04:13 PM

Nice post.....some points I agree with, others I don't!

Always thought that CLARiiON, Navisphere Manager, Snapview and Mirrorview were great products and easy to use. IMO Navisphere/Unisphere is much easier to use than the corresponding Netapp tools.

Have to agree with Netapp V EMC support. EMC once put customer support as top priority, then someone made the decision to offshore all of it L1 and most of L2. Now you get the scripted response to every fault.

Netapp support is fantastic (inc Autosupport) and many times they know about the fault before I do.

Calling sales people liars is very harsh! I haven't met one yet that isn't creative with the benefits they can deliver to your organization but, in reality, painting that picture is part of their job.

I'd say 90% of customers need assistance setting up any enterprise level storage array! Professional Services would be dead and buried if they didn't!

on ‎2014-04-02 07:37 AM

Point 3 !!!!!!!

NetApp tried to purchase Data Domain until EMC went in with a lot of cash..........

on ‎2014-06-24 03:57 AM

This is a great article that has helped me understand the difference between the two companies.

I am now going to look for information on the big technical differences and the market share.

on ‎2014-08-18 09:14 AM

Being deeply entrenched in supporting the EMC's and Netapp's, the question of which is cheaper, but its not a simple answer.

Thing like HDD/SSD are about the same regardless the vendor, but we're really paying for the technology in the unit that contains the brains and how effective and efficient they work.

Admittedly EMC is a strong in the SAN's arena and less so in NAS.  And visa versa for Netapp.

With the exception of EMC Isilon NAS platform - by far it's easier and more scalable than any Netapp, adding capacity and CPU to an existing cluster can be done within 15 minutes (includes: unbox, rack/stack, cabling, config and ready for usage).

But don't get me wrong, Isilon's drawback is it's inefficiency in handling small files (less than 128k in size) and lack of optimization for VMWare.

So there is no real answer to the question, its based on need and the tool that fits the job.

on ‎2015-03-22 01:56 AM

Here is few more to add...


Is there another storage platform as feature rich as NetApp FAS?

I think it is fair to say that NetApp FAS running Clustered Data ONTAP is a very feature rich platform – the move to the clustered version of ONTAP has brought many next-generation features including Scale-out and Non-disruptive Operations.

As a benchmark let’s compare FAS to EMC’s solutions – I fully appreciate that EMC has taken a best of breed approach, but my feeling is that for most non-enterprise customers this is not a sustainable strategy – customers want simplicity and ease of use, and you are not going to get that by deploying four different storage platforms to meet your needs.

I have chosen EMC because they are the overall market share leader and they have the broadest set of storage products available – so let’s compare FAS with VNX, VPLEX, XtremIO, Isilon and Data Domain:

NetApp FAS supports All-Disk, Hybrid Flash and All-Flash data stores - that meet the needs of any kind of application workload

The VNX is a very good All-Disk and Hybrid Flash array and XtremIO is a very good All-Flash array, but you need two completely different products to provide the functionality.

NetApp FAS eliminates silos and provides seamless scalability - to address Server Virtualisation, Virtual Desktop, Database and File storage needs in one scale-up and scale-out solution, that can start small and grow large

VNX is optimal for general Server Virtualisation and Databases and XtremIO excels when it comes to large scale Virtual Desktop and ultra-high performance database requirements. The VNX scales-up, but not out, and XtremIO scales-out, but not up.

NetApp FAS has fully unified SAN and NAS storage - to enable consistent management across all protocols and therefore flexibility in their use

VNX has a separate NAS OS which requires its own management (but it is integrated into a single UI along with SAN), XtremIO is SAN only and Isilon is NAS only.

NetApp FAS provides many storage efficiency technologies - including De-duplication, Inline Zero Write Elimination, Compression, Thin-Provisioning, Zero-cost Cloning and High-performance Double Disk Protection

XtremIO is excellent at all of these (just lacks the Double Disk Protection which I believe it will get shortly), neither VNX or Isilon are anywhere near as strong.

NetApp FAS has Flash optimised writes - with a SSD warranty that has no restrictions on the number of drive writes

As expected XtremIO excels whereas VNX and Isilon are not optimised.

NetApp FAS provides 24×7 continuous availability - including proven enterprise RAS, Non-disruptive Operations, and Metrocluster Site Protection

Neither VNX or XtremIO provide the ability to perform Non-Disruptive Operations like FAS. Introducing VPLEX does provide these capabilities along with excellent Metrocluster site protection.

NetApp FAS has integrated data protection - with near instant creation of snapshot based backups and automated offsite replication

Neither the VNX or XtremIO have these capabilities, to a lesser extent Isilon comes close, but it is limited to the workloads it supports (i.e. it cannot be used for Server or Desktop Virtualisation). EMC’s data protection solutions are typically built using their Data Domain De-duplication appliances and conventional backup software (interestingly they have started to integrate Data Domain directly with the replication engine within the new VMAX3 – no doubt a sign of things to come).

NetApp FAS is Public Cloud integrated - to support hybrid Disaster Recovery and Cloud Bursting

Currently there is no VNX equivalent of Cloud ONTAP for AWS, but this is expected sometime in 2015.

NetApp FAS is designed for VMware vSphere - with support for Virtual Volumes, VAAI, Site Recovery Manager and vCenter management

As expected VNX and XtremIO have support for all the relevant integrations with vSphere. Where FAS has an advantage is that NetApp have already announced support for Virtual Volumes so existing hardware will be able to take advantage of Virtual Volumes – not sure we will be able to say the same about VNX.

NetApp FAS is designed for VMware Horizon View - with support for high-performance hardware accelerated Full Clones (using VAAI) and Linked Clones (using VCAI), and up to 160,000 IOPS at 80% Writes per array

As expected for large scale Virtual Desktop projects XtremIO excels and the only area where it is lacking is that it doesn’t support VCAI as it requires NFS.

NetApp FAS is designed for Microsoft Hyper-V - with support for SMB 3.0 Continuous Availability Shares and Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX)

VNX has good support, whereas XtremIO lacks support for both SMB 3.0 and ODX.

I am confident that you could substitute EMC with any other storage vendor and you would end up with the same result – no single storage platform is anywhere near as feature rich as FAS.

So is FAS and Clustered Data ONTAP perfect?Absolutely not, there are undoubtedly areas whereby the traditional SAN arrays still have advantages (mostly around active/active controller architectures and metrocluster capabilities).

So what else would I like to see from FAS?

  • Sharing of drives across controllers – we are already starting to see this with the new drive and Flash Pools partitioning features
  • Detaching of the drives from the controllers – so that the failure of an HA pair within a cluster does not result in downtime
  • MetroCluster
    • Granular fail over - so volumes or even Virtual Volumes can be “moved” between sites
    • IP replication - either using FCIP bridges or native IP connectivity
    • Active/Active - so volumes/LUNs can be active on both sides of the cluster
  • Erasure coding – to eliminate idle spares and enable rapid drive rebuilds
  • Encryption – provided by the controllers rather than drives
  • Advanced QoS – to enable setting of Service Level Objectives rather than just limits
  • Integrated file archiving – to move older files to secondary storage or the cloud


I truly believe that there is no single storage platform that comes close to matching the range of capabilities of a NetApp FAS, but what do you think?

Do you work for a vendor or are you an end-user of a competitive storage platform? If you are let me know what you think – what are the downsides of the FAS architecture from your point of view?