Original URL: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/08/25/netapp_ontap_8/

NetApp heading cloudwards

New generation software provides cloud storage ONTAP

By Chris Mellor

Posted in The Channel, 25th August 2009 10:04 GMT

Looking to provide storage cloud facilities, NetApp has upgraded its array software to Data ONTAP 8, added a much enhanced memory caching card, and is enabling multiple heads for its arrays.

Low-end FAS 2000 arrays will be enhanced to support multiple heads, joining the existing FAS 3000 and 6000 arrays, which are already capable of that. There is also a new drive shelf for NetApp's arrays and ready-made cloud storage installation setups and services.

However, there is no announcement of new high-end hardware more powerful than the existing FAS 6000 arrays, as some expected, and no announcement of solid state drive (SSD) support within NetApp's arrays.

NetApp offers two versions of its ONTAP storage array software: 7G for single arrays and GX for clustered arrays, which uses technology from the Spinnaker acquisition of 2003. ONTAP 8 combines these offerings in a single code base. Customers though will select either 7 Mode or Cluster Mode.

ONTAP 8 offers a scale-out architecture, single global namespace, FCoE support, a Web-services based orchestration layer and APIs, and much enhanced multi-tenancy based on the existing MultiStore technology. NetApp will later add Data Motion, a means of moving large amounts of data from one array to another.

Cluster Mode, for customers operating in high-performance computing or digital media content environments, supports scale-out NAS with transparent data movement - Data Motion - that shares data access and data storage across multiple controllers. It provides enhanced system functions, such as CIFS and striped file systems.

ONTAP 7G introduced the concept of Aggregates, a logical concept sitting between a volume and RAID groups of physical disks. So-called FlexVols (flexible volumes) could be created in them and scaled up or down in size, without reference to the underlying drives, as a user's capacity needs change. ONTAP 8 introduces 64-bit aggregates. This allows an increase in capacity from 16TB to 100TB, enabling very much larger FlexVols to be created. This is appropriate, as 2TB drives are coming and cloud service providers may need to create vastly larger volumes for their customers.

Future minor releases of ONTAP 8 at 3 to 4 month intervals will add several new technologies and features for better cloud storage facilities, including enhanced data mobility, management and service automation, and dynamic scale out. A major release - ONTAP 9 possibly - can be expected in 18 months.

Scale-out storage uses clustering to add complete storage nodes. The interconnect is 10Gbit/E, although InfiniBand is still used for high-availability cluster pairs.

Dynamic scale-out adds heads to NetApp's arrays, but we don't know how many heads can be added and when this will be announced, although ONTAP 8.1 was hinted at, coming at the end of 2009 according to a T-Systems source.

Will it be possible to have ASIS deduplication working across clustered nodes and multiple filer heads? A NetApp spokesperson said: “This is not do-able in the first release and likely won't make it in the 8.1 release either. However the goal is to make this a reality."

"The first step in that goal is to be able to do dedupe across multiple volumes, which will then lead to (dedupe) across multiple heads.”

Existing 7G and GX customers move to ONTAP 8 differently, with 7G customers upgrading on-line and thereby obtaining clustering. GX customers go through a data-in-place upgrade and then a reboot.

Data Motion

Data Motion was developed following requests from NetApp customer T-Systems to be able to non-disruptively move large numbers of user files, such as virtual machines, belonging to a single customer or tenant of its cloud services from one NetApp array to another. T-Systems has several server environments, including IBM p-systems running AIX, and x86 servers running Windows, Linux and other Unix variants. The server software can issue a single request, using an API, to move a tenant from one NetApp array to another, and ONTAP 8 will do that. Data Motion can also be used for load-balancing.

Jeff O'Neal, NetApp's Senior Director for data centre solutions, said: "T-Systems was crucial in helping us build this technology. (It will be) available to current ONTAP customers in early 2010 and an enhanced version will be available to ONTAP 8 customers in late 2010."

NetApp presentation notes said: "One key capability we will offer down the road is the capability of transparently moving, adding, deleting volumes on the flight and without the need to slow down or restart the system. It allows business to add capacity on demand, automatically rebalance the workload among existing storage devices, and enables (an) ongoing, non-disruptive service model."

This leads on to handling an SSD tier of storage in an array: "It also enables us to treat different physical tier services as a software-based configuration model where one can move a volume based on flash memory into a secondary (tier), if needed to... Think of delivering different service levels by using dials—configuration options."

By providing such API access to T-Systems, NetApp is enabling it to use its legacy servers to offer cloud computing services, with all using the same NetApp storage. Thus T-Systems did not have to rip and replace server environments with VMware servers to do this. There is no VMware interface for Data Motion.

A presentation slide note said: "Finally, (Data Motion) allows us to integrate seamlessly with key virtualisation vendors into their solutions such as vMotion, [and] therefore offers our customers an end-to-end virtualisation solution that optimises business data service demands and IT response time." Pretty obviously a VMotion-Data Motion link is coming, but NetApp doesn't want to say when.

It was the opinion of a NetApp source that VMware's VMotion is good for moving one or a few VMs from one storage array to another, but not hundreds or thousands of them. Data Motion will cope with such large-scale movements and help maintain an always-on infrastructure, by moving data off arrays that are going to replaced or serviced and so taken off-line.

Note that a V-Series running ONTAP 8 extends Data Motion to third-party drive arrays, from EMC or HP for example.

Dynamic Data Centre

NetApp has developed something it calls the NetApp dynamic data centre solution to help its customers deliver IT as a service, it says. There is a standardised hardware infrastructure embracing storage, networking, and compute resources, a service management framework, and a delivery methodology using NetApp Professional Services and NetApp system integrator partners to deploy the ITaaS infrastructure.


PAM II, the second generation of the Performance Acceleration Module, builds on the DRAM-based PAM I, which plugged in the PCIe bus behind an array controller's main memory as a 16GB DRAM cache. PAM II has 256GB or 512GB of single level cell (SLC) NAND flash. NetApp array controllers can have 4TB of this in one controller with up to eight PAM II 8 cards. Previously controllers could only utilise up to five PAM I cards. The cards are designed by NetApp and built for it, not being Fusion-io-supplied.

O'Neal said that, by offering such a flash cache, NetApp did not have to work out which data to put in flash as it would have to do if it added SSDs to its disk shelves. He would not discuss when NetApp might, as it has promised, add SSDs to its drive arrays.

NetApp said PAM I cache hits lowered data access latency from the 10msecs of a disk access to slightly less than 1msec. It claimed an FAS 3140 fitted with a certain number of SATA drives and PAM I cards performed as well as the same array fitted with twice that number of 15,000rpm Fibre Channel drives. A 2008 SPECsfs2008 benchmark resulted in 40,011 ops/sec, with an overall response time of 2.75msec.

NetApp didn't provide directly comparable PAM I vs PAM II performance statistics or actual numbers.

Working from a presentation slide, it appears NetApp tested SPECsfs2008 performance on a FAS3160 with 224 FC drives and 16TB of hard drive capacity. It attained 60,000 ops/sec with a 4.4msec response time. Changing the configuration to 56 FC drives, 16TB of capacity, and putting a PAM card in each 3160 controller resulted in 60,000 ops/sec with a lower response time of 3.5msecs. This is not a published SPECsfs2008 result and we don't know the PAM II card capacity.

DS4243 disk shelf

This is a 4U shelf and offers 24 SAS or SATA drives with a maximum 24TB capacity and a 3Gbit/s SAS interface. It supports up to 48TB of storage, using 2TB drives, and a 48TB 6Gbit/s SAS product would be called a DS4486 product, not that one is being announced today.

Price and availability

Data ONTAP 8 will be available for early access (testing) for selected customers in September, with general availability in the fourth quarter. Existing ONTAP customers receive it at no charge. For a new customer, ONTAP 8 software is a component of the NetApp FAS or V-Series platform purchased. Total cost is based on the particular configuration each customer selects.

Pricing for NetApp Data Motion has not been finalized.

The PAM II card is scheduled to be available in September 2009. A 256GB one is estimated to cost $40,000, while a 512GB one has an estimated cost of $80,000. The software license for the new PAM cards is currently offered at no additional charge. The original PAM card has an estimated cost of $35,000 for the first card (including approximately $20,000 for the software license) and approximately $15,000 for each additional card up to the limit of the storage controller.

The entry price for the DS4243 disk shelf with twelve 500GB SATA drives is approximately $26,000. It is scheduled to be available in September 2009.


With ONTAP 8 NetApp is saying to all customers who want to be cloud service providers, of whatever sort, that it can work with diverse server estates, as it is already with T-Systems. It claims to offer a virtualised, scalable and efficient unified storage service, with API access for the servers for automated services and chargeback. It will extend Data Motion's interfaces to support VMotion at some time and it can greatly increase the general I/O capability of its arrays by adding heads to them, and greatly increase the read I/O capability of controllers by adding large flash caches to them.

NetApp's ONTAP 8 signals that it wants to be a big noise in cloud computing storage. It will not offer its own cloud services, as EMC is doing with Decho. NetApp will not be going into competition with its cloud-providing customers. ®