Software Defined – Been There, Done That. Part 5

By Zev Rubenstein, NetApp Data Protection Product Marketing Manager


Welcome Back for More SDS

In Part 1 of this series, I pointed out that NetApp’s storage has always been “software defined.” In Part 2 I discussed how we extend “software-defined” with management and workflow automation as well as by integrating with third party tools and storage. In Part 3 I described how we implement our clustering by abstracting data access and data management, which enables the breadth of features we provide. In Part 4 I talked about Nondisruptive Operations (NDO) as an underlying design philosophy for clustered Data ONTAP, and how it enables IT to spend more time on innovation, and less time “keeping the lights on”.

As we roll out our new FAS8000 series, it’s worth noting another capability we offer: the ability to virtualize third party storage with FlexArray Storage Virtualization Software, creating a software-defined storage infrastructure.

But first, some history.

All Storage Gateways are not the Same

For 10 years, NetApp has offered V-Series: a specialized controller designed to virtualize third party storage, leveraging customer’s existing investments. V-Series enables all of our NetApp capabilities - including data protection, data management and storage efficiency - on arrays that customers already have in place.

That virtualization is, of course, another example of Software Defined Storage. We can take a third party array and re-define it to look like NetApp storage.

For almost every model in our product line there were two systems: a FAS system and an equivalent V-Series system.  This enabled customers to scale to higher performance and capacity models, as needed, when virtualizing their third party storage.

A couple of our competitors tried to do the same, but we remained the only ones who could take a third party system and natively support both NAS and SAN, simultaneously supporting all the protocols (NFS, CIFS/SMB, iSCSI, FCoE, and FC). Plus, no one else has our unique, non-impacting Snapshot copies for data protection – the original and most functional point-in-time copy technology.

FlexArray – The Next Generation (Please don’t call it a Storage Gateway)

With the release of our FAS8000 series, clustered Data ONTAP completely re-defines the virtualization of third party storage. Instead of a separate controller, third party storage virtualization is just another software license built into the operating system: FlexArray Storage Virtualization Software.


With FlexArray on FAS8000, I can provide all of the NetApp SDS goodness that comes with clustered Data ONTAP to my existing third party storage, thereby extending the useful life of that equipment, just by turning on a license key. Once configured, the third party storage becomes part of the cluster, supporting both NAS and SAN simultaneously. (Note that FlexArray can virtualize our own E-Series storage as well.)

One challenge facing customers today is moving to a cloud infrastructure. It’s a given that they are virtualized at the server level, but a key to success is having the same level of flexibility to move workloads around at the storage level. By implementing clustered Data ONTAP with FlexArray, you can leverage our DataMotion software to move the newly virtualized third party volumes (with or without LUNs) to another part of the NetApp cluster running native NetApp storage - and do so without any interruption to the application. As noted in my earlier blogs, source and destination relationships for data protection replication are also maintained, even during replication. Further demonstration of how seriously we take NDO as an underlying design philosophy.

In addition, MultiStore ensures that the data remains secure and segregated and is optimized for multi-tenancy.  Since we’re NetApp, DataMotion works seamlessly with MultiStore to relocate that data, maintaining the LUN security throughout the process.

Is that Software-Defined Storage or what? No other vendor on the planet can do this.