EVO: RAIL – Is NetApp sleeping with a SAN killer?

Company discusses giving customers the best of both worlds

Grumpy cat

Comment Innovation rules, OK! NetApp's unlikely pairing of VMware's server-side SAN VSAN product with its networked ONTAP array was unorthodox, with VSAN being seen as a physical SAN killer. What is NetApp up to with its ONTAP EVO: RAIL system?

NetApp spokesperson Amelia Vierra provided the answers to a set of questions we asked. Although a bit marketing-speak in style, it does explain a lot about the idea NetApp has, and how the Integrated EVO:RAIL Solution is positioned against the FlexPod offering:

El Reg: EVO: RAIL is about VMware’s VSAN being used to provide a pool of storage aggregated from participating server's direct-attached storage. Where does a clustered ONTAP array fit in?

Amelia Vierra: The NetApp Integrated EVO:RAIL Solution leverages the enterprise capabilities of Data ONTAP to provide consistent data management that integrates as part of a data fabric to interconnect departmental and branch environments with the enterprise data center and public clouds.

Data ONTAP provides enterprise storage capabilities for critical applications that we’ve found customers are looking for, such as Backup, DR, Deduplication, thin cloning, and integration of the storage to the application.

El Reg: What are the data storage roles of the VSAN and the ONTAP array in the NetApp Integrated EVO: RAIL Solution?

Amelia Vierra: Each storage technology serves a different purpose. For example, VSAN can be used for operating systems and Virtual Machine images. Data ONTAP provides the proven reliability and advanced data services to manage and protect the critical information such as application and databases data, end-user files, and development data.

At departmental sites running Microsoft back-office applications, for example, server VMDK’s are being evaluated to be stored on hyper-converged solutions, even though critical application data continues to be managed by Data ONTAP to meet corporate protection guidelines. The Data ONTAP platform has the flexibility to manage any data type found at remote and departmental sites.

Data contained on the system can interconnect into an enterprise-wide fabric that includes public clouds.

Application data, for example, can be protected for local failures with frequent non-performance degrading snapshots, get DR protection by replicating the data back to the enterprise data center for DR, and archive cost-effectively by replicating to a public cloud, such as Amazon. By integrating storage for virtual images and critical data under a common user interface with a single point of support, the NetApp Integrated EVO:RAIL Solution uniquely marries the cost economics of hyper-converged appliances with the enterprise benefits of NetApp enterprise storage.

El Reg: Is data moved from the VSAN to the ONTAP array, and vice versa, and, if so, how and when and why?

Amelia Vierra: Data will be deployed to storage platforms by data type. We don’t expect data will move back and forth frequently between the data platforms.

El Reg: Do partners build the NetApp Integrated EVO: RAIL Solution from components identified in a reference architecture? If not, how is the system built?

Amelia Vierra: The solution is a NetApp-branded platform that is built and delivered by NetApp and our manufacturing partners. It is sold by NetApp sales teams and channel partners.

El Reg: How would NetApp position and characterise FlexPod and NetApp Integrated EVO: RAIL Solution? Which customers and use cases are best suited for each offering?

Amelia Vierra: The NetApp Integrated EVO:RAIL Solution is a pre-built solution that comes in fixed sizes targeting branch and departmental environments. This solution fits customers who want simple, standardised infrastructure deployments.

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