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NetApp-SolidFire storage operating systems nudge closer

NetApp's SolidFire skeleton gains some flesh with Ontap 9.3 and Element 10 integration. Notable features include enhanced security and SnapMirror replication between OSes.

Nearly two years after acquiring SolidFire, NetApp is giving the all-flash platform and its technology a greater role in its product lineup.

Besides using SolidFire arrays as the key building block of the new NetApp HCI system, NetApp integrated SolidFire features into its flagship Ontap operating system.

NetApp-SolidFire integration appeared in the new operating systems -- NetApp Ontap 9.3 and SolidFire Element OS 10 -- released at the NetApp Insight conference last week in Las Vegas.

NetApp-SolidFire enhancements include the ability to replicate NetApp SnapMirror snapshots from Element OS systems to Ontap-based storage. Support backup targets include cloud-connected NetApp AltaVault backup appliances and StorageGrid Webscale object storage. NetApp also integrated quality of service from Element OS into Ontap 9.3.

NetApp also introduced its Elio virtual support engine, which is built on the artificial intelligence powered by IBM Watson cognitive computing, and updated Active IQ cloud-based predictive analytics for health diagnostics across its Data Fabric technologies. NetApp also released StorageGrid 11.

NetApp: SolidFire's Element OS broadens the reach of Ontap, Data Fabric

All-flash array startup SolidFire originally launched Active IQ as part of Element. The $870 million NetApp-SolidFire acquisition in 2015 accomplished a pair of goals that had eluded NetApp. SolidFire SF-Series all-flash arrays allowed it to scrap its long-delayed FlashRay product, which was only available as a single node. NetApp this week also finally entered the hyper-converged infrastructure market with the help of SolidFire storage.

Quality of service is something we could have done sooner in Ontap, but now it's state of the art.
Octavian TanaseSVP of Ontap software and systems group, NetApp

The SolidFire Element OS was written with native support for quality of service (QoS). By integrating it in Ontap 9.3, NetApp is eyeing customers who run a greater variety of applications with Clustered Ontap operating system than they did with Ontap 7-Mode.

The NetApp-SolidFire adaptive QoS in Ontap 9.3 allows customers to set a floor and ceiling for performance and use "smart bursting" as applications require it, said Octavian Tanase, a senior vice president of NetApp Data Ontap software and systems group.

"Quality of service is something we could have done sooner in Ontap, but now it's state of the art. As we upgraded from Ontap 7-Mode to Clustered Ontap, that's when customers started to deploy heterogeneous workloads, to get capacity and performance on one system," Tanase said.

NetApp 'democratizes' DR, targets data security

NetApp MetroCluster in Ontap 9.3 allows disaster recovery workloads to run across IP-based networks, in addition to traditional Fibre Channel support. Running across IP eliminates the need to install SAS-to-FC bridges or expensive switches.

"We think we have been able to democratize DR," Tanase said.

Ontap 9.3 adds multifactor authentication, a configurable engine that requires users to invoke a second token to gain access to data. The update supports external key management for WORM compliance with NetApp SnapLock volume management.

NetApp StorageGrid 11 added the ability to mirror on-premises data to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. It permits authorized users to run Apache Hive script in an Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud and mirror data to an Amazon S3 bucket.

StorageGrid 11 will notify Amazon Lambda to run facial recognition for security when a user requests images stored in an AWS.

NetApp also refreshed its OnCommand Insight management tool, most notably adding an analyzer for estimating AWS costs.

Next Steps

NetApp junks FlashRay, acquires all-flash startup SolidFire

NetApp's long and winding journey to all-flash storage

Making up for lost time, NetApp gains ground on all-flash competitors

Dig Deeper on Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Systems

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What other features from Element OS would you like to see NetApp add to Ontap?
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Keep in mind, that quite a few of the features mentioned were already in ONTAP before: QoS ceilings have been around since ONTAP 8.2, QoS floors were already in 9.2. Also the inner workings are quite different, since with a SolidFire System you have a pretty good idea what you're getting in terms of IOPS and bandwidth, whereas with an ONTAP system, there's way more variance with add-on cards and shelves and different disk types. ONTAP 9(.0) laid the groundwork with "performance headroom", and once you had a pretty good idea, what a system is capable of, you can hand out QoS floors ("sort-of-guaranteed/best effort" QoS). While it was perhaps inspired by SolidFire, it's not a feature that was copied into it... Actually it reminded me a bit of the "old" ONTAP 7.x (7-Mode) FlexShare capabilities.

Same for SnapMirror: with ONTAP 8.3 came the new "version-independent" LRSE (Logical Replication with Storage Efficiency) engine, that in the first instance enabled SnapMirror replication between systems with different ONTAP versions (>8.3, of course). Then came AltaVault integration with ONTAP 9.1. Now we have SolidFire Integration...

Active IQ is definetely something coming from SolidFire, but don't discount the "old workhorse" ONTAP for innovation...

My 2c

Sebastian Goetze
(NCI - NetApp Certified Instructor)
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This is why we referred to an "integration"
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This is why the story refers to it as an “integration”

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