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NetApp pushes clustered NAS ONTAP but customers drag feet

Antony Adshead

Clustered NAS capability is a major event theme for NetApp at its Insight partner event in Dublin this week, but very few customers have switched to the true clustering capability that debuted in version 8.1.1 of its Data ONTAP operating system (OS) earlier this year.

NetApp is pushing the clustered NAS capability of Data ONTAP hard at the event. Clustered NAS capability allows individual instances of NAS filers to operate in a grid-like fashion, with a single file system visible from all. That means customers can scale capacity or performance as required and can switch devices in or out of the cluster without overall downtime.

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But it is early days and, despite the availability of clustered NAS functionality in new NetApp filers and as OS downloads for existing array hardware, few customers have switched to it.

Key reasons cited in a straw poll on the floor of the Dublin event were that it lacks features that are due in later versions; that switching to cluster mode is not a trivial practical task; and that the desire to be an early adopter is not widespread.

A Manchester-based integrator with 60 NetApp customers has none that have made the switch. 

“It’s lacking some features that will come in later versions, such as SnapVault [A NetApp disk-to-disk backup feature], which is due in version 8.2 [due in 2013]. Most of our customers say they like the look of clustering but it’s very new and they want to wait for others to do it first,” he said.

A UK-based NetApp account manager with 50 customers also had none that had made the move to cluster mode. 

“If you could just switch it on, they would move over, but you need to transition from old systems. It’s a completely new code base and people want to wait and see before committing to it,” he said.

A Switzerland-based reseller with more than 100 NetApp customers said: “Not many have switched to cluster mode. No-one trusts new technology in a production environment. It’s a new thing and people want to wait until someone else has done it.”

Not wanting to be the first to jump was a very common theme. A Swedish reseller with 40 NetApp customers said the same. So did a Portugal-based reseller with 100 customers. Neither had a single customer that had gone over to cluster mode from ONTAP 8.1.1 onwards.

A Germany-based integrator with 500 NetApp systems at 150 customers pointed out the practical difficulties of switching from existing non-clustered modes to clustered mode in Data ONTAP.

“The transfer of data from old systems to new means you need double your capacity. You have to move data off the old hardware, install the new OS and then put the data back. You can’t switch just like that.”


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