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NetApp slaps down Lightning with multi-card flash flush

Supports vMotion and DRS

Intelligent flash storage arrays

NetApp is developing a server flash storage offering that will include beefy NetApp steak and not just EMC Lightning sizzle, according to insiders in the company.

Our understanding, from people close to the action, is that NetApp server flash software will work with any server PCIe-connected flash memory card, and with multiple cards up to 2TB of overall capacity per server. EMC's Lightning, in its v1.0 release, is limited to a single 300GB Micron and LSI WarpDrive card per server and doesn't support blade servers.

NetApp's server flash software will support VMware high-availability features, vMotion and DRS. EMC's Lightning strike missed out these use cases.

According to NetApp, VFCache can hold stale data if the backend array has data restored on it, but there is no reliable data coherency end-to-end. NetApp's software will prevent this happening and the data in the server's flash storage will be coherent with that in the backend array – presumably supplied by NetApp.

As NetApp arrays use many storage protocols, both file and block, its server flash software will similarly support all the protocols used to link servers and storage. Our understanding is that this will mean NetApp-supported protocols. El Reg thinks that Coraid's AoE protocol is likely not supported.

In keeping with this unified storage approach, NetApp's server flash software will work with all of its FAS arrays and V-series third-party storage virtualising controllers, but not – at least in the coming release – with the E-Series products. Both Data ONTAP cluster mode and 7-mode will be supported.

A phase two of the software will add active co-ordination between array ONTAP software and the server flash cache software. This can be expected to improve storage efficiency by eliminating redundant caching and also improve application I/O response by better data loading of the flash.

We asked various NetApp people for comments on this but no one was able to get back to us. We would expect a "No comment" response anyway.

There is no mention of any shared, networked flash array functionality from NetApp. Timescales? We envisage version one by the mid-year point and version two possibly by the end of the year. Naming? We'd like to say it will be Data ONFLASH... or maybe FlexFlash? ®

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