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When NetApp bought all-flash specialist Solidfire for $870m a year ago, it gained a well-regarded set of all-flash products that successfully addressed the cloud provider and enterprise market segments.
Computer Weekly storage editor Antony Adshead spoke to Laurence James, NetApp products, alliances and solutions manager, and Martin Cooper, systems engineering director with NetApp SolidFire.
They spoke about plans to integrate Solidfire with Data Ontap data protection functionality such as SnapMirror and SnapVault, how NetApp differentiates Solidfire from its other flash products, and plans for NVMe in Solidfire arrays.
Adshead: NetApp has always made a big thing about having a common operating environment across its storage with the Data Ontap operating system. Will there be any integration between Solidfire and Ontap?
Cooper: There are no plans to integrate Solidfire into Ontap. They will be separate and discrete products in the storage portfolio.
James: In future, however, we do have roadmap plans to provide SnapMirror and SnapVault functionality in Solidfire, probably in the next 12 to 18 months.
Read more about all-flash, NVMe
- Computer Weekly surveys an all-flash array market in which the big six in storage have largely settled on strategy, but key new technologies – such as TLC flash and 3D Nand – are emerging.
- NVMe brings blistering performance gains over existing HDD-era disk protocols, and is a straight swap-in for PCIe server-side flash with array and hyper-converged products on the way.
Adshead: What effect has the acquisition of Solidfire had on the combined organisation’s sales efforts? In other words, how do you decide when to sell flash-equipped FAS or Solidfire to a customer?
Cooper: When we were first integrated, we made the mistake of putting all three flash products – the E Series, for straight line high performance, FAS for data-rich functionality, and Solidfire – on the same slide.
So, we ended up comparing all-flash products when Solidfire is actually built around a different model, an infrastructure you program rather than configure. That’s how the webscale datacentre operations do it, and that’s what Solidfire is all about.
Flash is obviously required for some workloads, but it’s not the reason to choose Solidfire. We entirely virtualise all capacity and performance in a cluster with the ability to define it in an API [application programming interface] layer. Solidfire is also scalable in a truly linear fashion.
Adshead: If Solidfire has such great functionality, does the FAS sales team not wish their product had it too?
James: FAS offers a richer set of protocols – such as NFS and CIFS – as well as multiprotocol operations, and is integrated to a broad set of apps and an operating environment, such as AIX, HP-UX, that Solidfire just can’t work with.
Cooper: There are clear gaps in what Solidfire can do. There has been no compromise in its design, but it’s lousy at everything else.
We need to stay honest and work out exactly what the customer problem is that we’re trying to solve.
Adshead: Will Solidfire get NVMe?
James: Yes. But not yet.
There are two things our customers are not asking for. And they are faster flash and more costly flash. We will see NVMe moving into the datacentre via multiple methods, via servers and as cache next to the CPU.
In fact, the latest FAS hybrid flash systems use NVMe for flash cache.