Tech ONTAP Articles

All-Flash Storage: Accelerated Performance, Yes, but Is It Enterprise-Grade?


August 2015

Mike McNamara
Senior Manager, Product Marketing

Sure, high performance and low latency matter. Business competition—relentless 24/7/365—demands that you coax maximum speed and responsiveness from key business operations. Faster time to market translates to greater customer satisfaction and competitive advantage.


That's why your forward-looking IT peers increasingly embrace all-flash storage: By speeding performance and reducing latency, flash accelerates business value—driving revenue, enhancing the customer experience, and reducing costs through consolidation.


But when it comes to all-flash storage solutions today, high performance and low latency are not enough. Your enterprise needs more.

Turn on a Dime—Without Compromise

In an enterprise context, "agility" refers to how well and rapidly a company can adapt to market and environmental changes—and do it in productive, cost-effective ways. Robust data management and enterprise-grade capabilities are key to staying on top of today's dynamic marketplace.


Accordingly, astute IT bosses are asking questions around all-flash storage solutions: How available is my data? How much flexibility do I have to move that data over its lifecycle? What about data protection? Does the solution offer native support for cloud?


In essence, they're saying, "Okay, Mr. Storage Vendor, you can accelerate my performance and reduce my latency. But can you wrap that in the enterprise-grade package that I need to run my business?"


NetApp® All Flash FAS (AFF) answers all these questions. It's an enterprise-grade storage solution.



Figure 1) Powered by clustered Data ONTAP, All Flash FAS is built for virtualized, shared environments requiring high performance plus robust data management.




Source: NetApp, 2015

Powered by Clustered Data ONTAP

Driving All Flash FAS is NetApp clustered Data ONTAP®, the #1 storage operating system (OS).* It's the foundation of the Data Fabric, our vision for the future of data management. We architected Data ONTAP to have enterprise-grade, unified, scale-out capabilities that deliver nondisruptive operations, storage and operational efficiency, and scalability over the lifetime of the system. Data ONTAP is the basis for virtualized shared storage infrastructures.


Backed by Data ONTAP FlashEssentials, AFF simplifies flash deployment, eliminates flash silos, accelerates database performance with 20x faster response times, and reduces your total cost of ownership. Enhanced native capabilities of the OS bring integrated inline efficiencies to AFF. These include newly enhanced compression, inline zero-block and always-on deduplication for 5x–10x average space savings.


All Flash FAS employs the Data ONTAP log-structured file system WAFL® (Write Anywhere File Layout). It's optimized for flash media to minimize latency, reduce wear, and maximize usable capacity. The solution's optimized write, read, and parallel processing results in consistent submillisecond latency and high performance.



Figure 2) Flash-optimized write architecture reduces latency and increases the longevity of SSDs.




Source: NetApp, 2015


Flash-to-Disk Agility

All Flash FAS supports live workload migration between flash and hard disk drive (HDD) tiers—on premises or in the cloud. As data characteristics and application environments change, data that's no longer performance-driven doesn't need to be in flash. All Flash FAS gives you the flexibility to move that data nondisruptively within the same cluster to other nodes that are just spinning media for cost-effective backup or archival for example—quickly and easily.


Flash-to-Cloud Data Protection

NetApp is the first all-flash system to support integrated snapshots and cloning to a software instance running on Amazon Web Services. You can move your data securely across your choice of clouds—enabled by Cloud ONTAP™ and NetApp Private Storage for Cloud.


Enterprise-grade Data Protection Delivers Resiliency

Industry-leading, advanced data protection technologies in AFF improve your resiliency. Core features include RAID DP, in-core checksums, lost write protection, read-after write verification, and media scans that verify that data written to the solid state drive (SSD) is written correctly and regenerated.


For enterprise-grade data availability, NetApp MetroCluster™ is the only high-availability and disaster recovery software integrated into an all-flash array. With MetroCluster, you recover from failures with zero data loss, maintaining continuous data availability for mission-critical applications—at half the cost and complexity of competitive solutions. All Flash FAS with MetroCluster is one of the only all-flash arrays that supports integrated synchronous mirroring with a single management view. And, according to Forrester Research estimates, organizations can achieve up to 143% return on investment (ROI) through MetroCluster.


NetApp SnapMirror® software replicates to any type of FAS system—all flash, hybrid, or HDD, on premises or in the cloud—reducing overall system costs.


Enhancements that improve SSD durability and life include metadata and user data that are coalesced in memory before being destaged intelligently to the SSD subsystem. This ability minimizes wear by reducing the amount of writes dispatched to the SSDs. Data is never overwritten in place and writes are striped across multiple SSDs, resulting in more even wear.


Furthermore, where other storage vendors compete, we partner. One road leads to vendor lock-in; the other leads to interoperability. Through strong data protection partnerships, All Flash FAS delivers integrated support for Veeam, Commvault, Veritas, and Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) solutions.

Leading Application Integration Covers All the Bases

Deep application integration sets All Flash FAS apart from other all-flash solutions on the market today.


Delivering tight assimilation with Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, SAP, Citrix, VMware, and OpenStack and CloudStack environments, AFF streamlines your management and data protection chores—saving you time and cycles. Application-consistent backup and recovery is integrated and automated.

Storage Management Made Easy

All Flash FAS includes the NetApp OnCommand® family of management software for automated tools that further simplify management of storage operations. Setting up and configuring AFF typically takes less than 15 minutes leveraging preconfigured systems for SAN deployments. OnCommand Workflow Automation automates common storage tasks such as provisioning and data protection for environments such as Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle.


To optimize storage for peak performance and to keep everything running smoothly, OnCommand Performance Manager automatically monitors and analyzes performance. It's an integrated component of OnCommand Unified Manager.


With multiprotocol support—Fibre Channel (FC), FCoE, iSCSI, NFS, pNFS, CIFS/SMB—AFF delivers a common look and feel across your entire heterogeneous enterprise. Network-attached storage (NAS) is especially useful for VDI workloads typical in Citrix XenDesktop and VMware Horizon View installations.

The Need for Speed

All Flash FAS accelerated performance enables server consolidation and can reduce database license costs by 50%.


In a recent SPC-1 benchmark, the All Flash FAS8080EX delivered 685,000 SPC-1 IOPS, ranking in the top 5. For database environments, AFF delivers 309K IOPS at 1ms latency for Oracle database 12c and 280K IOPS at 1ms latency for Microsoft SQL Server. VDI performance is equally impressive with 160K IOPS at ~1ms latency (80% write, 20% read).


Like every FAS controller, AFF supports all the same protocols and features as FAS hybrid arrays. This includes the ability to scale up and out to 8 nodes for FC, or 24 nodes for NAS. With multi-tenancy built in and quality of service to protect important workloads, All Flash FAS is more than capable of meeting the demands of enterprise IT—scaling up to 384TB all-flash capacity per high availability (HA) pair or up to 5PB all-flash capacity in a cluster.

Free Try Before You Buy

If you're evaluating all-flash storage arrays for your enterprise, you'll want to consider the questions in the All Flash Array Checklist for Enterprise Buyers (see sidebar, "All-Flash Vendors Should Meet These Criteria"). Compare NetApp AFF against all-flash storage solutions other vendors are offering. If their solutions don't meet these criteria, you will end up setting up a storage silo with all of the management challenges involved.


NetApp is currently offering a free All Flash FAS trial for qualified enterprises. It's a risk-free way to put all-flash storage performance with enterprise-grade capabilities through its paces in your own environment. Contact your NetApp sales rep or reseller to find out more


The NetApp AFF8000 product line delivers on all the elements in the checklist. Because yes, high performance and low latency matter—but for enterprise IT mavens, that's just the beginning.



*IDC Worldwide Quarterly Disk Storage Systems Tracker 2015 Q1, June 2015 (Open Networked Disk Storage Systems revenue)



Mike McNamara, senior manager of product marketing at NetApp, has 25 years of storage and data management marketing experience. Prior to NetApp, Mike worked at Adaptec, EMC, and HP. He helped lead the launch of the industry's first unified scale-out storage system, iSCSI and SAS storage system, and Fibre Channel storage system. Mike is a former marketing chairperson for the Fibre Channel Industry Association, and current member of the Ethernet Technology Summit Conference Advisory Board and the Ethernet Alliance. He frequently contributes to industry journals and speaks at industry events.


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Saluting Mike,


Would you please alsoa dvice how many enterprise users are running Epic on AFF8K?


Tks by Henry PAN


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