NetApp boosts NVMe, QLC and container hybrid cloud offer

Storage giant NetApp unveils new AFF, FAS and E-series arrays with NVMe and QLC flash capability, plus object storage in Ontap and Spot cloud container resource management in Cloud Manager

At its Insight event this week, NetApp launched four flash and non-volatile memory express-based (NVMe-based) hardware storage products, as well as container-centric enhancements to its hybrid cloud storage offerings.

The hardware products target mission-critical workloads with all-NVMe, high-volume unstructured workloads via NVMe QLC flash; upgrades to its Ontap storage operating system to version 9.8, which allows for S3 object storage connectivity; and a new E-series array with all-NVMe media.

Meanwhile, NetApp has added its Spot container resource management capability to its Cloud Manager hybrid- and multi-cloud storage control plane.

The first new hardware offering is the AFF A250, which is a 2U all-NVMe array classed as entry level, but aimed at mission-critical and database use cases. It takes up to 24 NVMe solid-state drives (SSDs) and is connected via Fibre Channel and Ethernet.

NetApp’s chief technology officer of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Matt Watts, said the AFF A250 offered a “45% performance improvement” over existing entry-level NetApp arrays.

Then there is the FAS500F, which is the first NetApp array to support QLC flash drives. It can run to capacity of up to 1PB in a 2U form factor with NVMe QLC drives. Its target workloads are those that deal with large volumes of unstructured data, said Watts, and “possibly backup and disaster recovery targets”. It is in use with Dreamworks and Tata Consultancy Services, he added.

QLC flash operates with 16 different voltage levels to provide four bits of data per flash cell. This offers high capacity but affects the lifespan of QLC flash chips and means they are better suited to sequential read input/output (I/O) rather than more mixed workloads handled by multi-level cell (MLC) flash, for example.

The key upgrade in Data Ontap version 9.8 is S3 object storage support in addition to block access (Fibre Channel and iSCSI), as well as file access that is already present in the storage operating system. The new functionality adds object storage capability to NetApp arrays as an S3 namespace, said Watts.

Finally, NetApp has added an NVMe-enabled array to its E-series line. The EF3000 provides 670,000 IOPS and throughput of 20GBps and is aimed at high-performance analytics use cases. NetApp’s E-Series arrays date back to NetApp’s acquisition of Engenio in 2011, whose arrays were designed for spinning disk. They run the SanTricity operating system, which is a legacy of that pedigree.

Meanwhile, NetApp is keen to make noise about its growth in the cloud, which Watts said showed “192% growth” in the first quarter of 2020 compared to “solid performance” (i.e, much slower) in array products.

The key news here is the addition of Spot container management capabilities to NetApp’s Cloud Manager functionality. Cloud Manager allows customers to build cloud volumes across the key cloud providers, and on site. Now they can use Spot within that to analyse and optimise the resources used for containerised workloads in hybrid- and multi-cloud scenarios.

This allows, according to Watts, customers to make big savings on cloud storage for Kubernetes containers by being able to use more cost-effective resources, which includes compute (Spot Ocean) and storage (Spot Storage).

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