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REVEALED: NetApp's upcoming 'version 1.0' all-flash array

We get a few details on stand-alone SANtricity silo

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NetApp is going to introduce the NetApp Flash Array, an array using up to 24 SSDs and running the SANtricity (PDF) operating system rather than DataONTAP.

The tech giant has been signalling for the better part of a year now that it will be expanding its flash technology offering and working on a few in-house flashy developments, but how will this new product fit in with that?

We have been seen a product brief and it tells us the array has a dual-active controller design with 24GB of memory, and comes with either 12 or 24 800GB SSDs in a 2U rack enclosure The raw flash capacity is either 9.6TB or 19.2TB and the array's bandwidth is 6Gbit/s. It can deliver up to 350,000 IOPs and 300,000 sustained IOPS.

The documentation claims the array "delivers the performance of over a thousand 15,000 RPM drives while taking up just 5 per cent of the rack space, power and cooling." However, its capabilities do not measure up to those of NetApp's MARS project which we described in December last year.

Candidate drives for the flash array are:

  • Intel DC S3700
  • SANdisk Lightning
  • Seagate Pulsar.2 MLC
  • SMART Modular Technologies Optimus
  • STEC s840
  • Toshiba PX02SM, PX02SMQ

The array is targeted at applications needing fast response and low latency. The base I/O capability consists of 8 x 8Gbit/s Fibre Channel ports. Options include 8 x 6Gbit/s SAS, 4 x 10GbitE, and 4 x 40Gbit/s InfiniBand. Data protection capabilities include RAID levels 0, 1, 3, 5, 6 and 10.

NetApp Flash Array

Unlike a ground-up designed and written flash array operating system, SANtricity, the storage management O/S for NetApp's E-Series arrays, is tried and tested and provides:

  • Dynamic Volume Expansion
  • Dynamic Capacity Expansion
  • Dynamic RAID Level Migration
  • Dynamic Segment Size Migration
  • Persistent Monitor
  • Proactive Wear Life Monitoring
  • Nondisruptive Firmware Upgrades

These features are as listed for SANtricity in NetApp's E-Series disk drive array information and, we understand, are basically disk drive array technologies retrofitted to a flash array.

The high availability features include:

  • Redundant, hot-swappable controllers, disk drives, power supplies, and cooling fans
  • Automatic drive failover and detection and rebuild using global hot spare drives
  • Mirrored data cache with battery backup and destage to flash
  • SANtricity Proactive Drive Health Monitoring identifies problem drives before they create issues
  • SANtricity Persistent Monitor makes periodic copies of the storage system configuration

There appears to be no deduplication, no replication, no compression, no encryption, no clustering and no VAAI support at this stage in the product's life. The documentation we have seen makes no claims about any DataONTAP integration or scalability.

How does the NetApp Flash Array compare to other all-flash arrays? The table highlights some of its attributes as compared with several of its competitors, including Greenbytes, Pure Storage, Nimbus, SKyera, SolidFire, Violin and Whiptail.

NetApp Flash Array comparison table

Click on this for a larger, more readable version

The positioning of the product as a SAN-attached flash array to accelerate the execution of applications requiring the fastest storage response and lowest latency but without back-end storage array integration is typical in this product area. Only HP has a pronounced back-end array integration strategy.

There are a number of optional software products for the E-Series and these may be made available for the Flash Array by NetApp:

  • SafeStore encryption
  • Snapshot software
  • Volume Copy
  • Remote Volume Mirroring

The El Reg storage desk views this as a version 1.0 product with much more functionality to be be added in later releases.

We have no pricing or availability information and NetApp traditionally does not comment on speculation about forthcoming products. ®

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