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NetApp hops a ride on VMware's EVO: RAIL

NetApp Integrated EVO: RAIL Solution combines VMware's Virtual SAN hyper-converged software with NetApp Data Ontap operating system and cloud storage.

NetApp Inc. is the latest storage vendor to commit to building a hyper-converged system around VMware's EVO: RAIL software.

NetApp today said its EVO: RAIL system will ship in the first half of 2015. It will be called the NetApp Integrated EVO: RAIL Solution, and will include NetApp's clustered Data Ontap storage software on NetApp FAS 2552 storage arrays, non-branded white box servers and VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN) software.

NetApp positions its EVO: RAIL product as a complement to its FlexPod reference architecture for enterprise storage. VMware is a partner in FlexPod, as is server and storage switching vendor Cisco. But while FlexPod systems are designed mostly for large enterprises, EVO: RAIL is mainly aimed at departments or branch offices with limited IT resources, said Adam Fore, NetApp director of solutions marketing for virtualization and cloud.

"This will resonate with customers that probably already are running VMware and NetApp in their data centers. This is going to enable larger enterprise data centers to extend their storage policies and procedures out to sites that may be running a hodgepodge of different technologies," Fore said.

VMware launched EVO: RAIL in August. EVO is short for VMware's Evolutionary Hyper Converged Infrastructure offerings. The RAIL term refers to the rail that is attached to the server platform.

VMware has set the parameters for storage hardware. Each EVO: RAIL appliance is a 2U, four-node x86 server system (scalable to 16 nodes) packaged with VSAN software. VMware requires each node to contain dual processors, 192 GB of memory, 14.4 TB of hard drive storage and 1.6 TB of flash-accelerated capacity.

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Fore said NetApp will source server technology for its EVO: RAIL offering through component manufacturers to match the EVO: RAIL hardware parameters. NetApp did not provide specifics on server partners, but said details would be available when it starts shipping NetApp Integrated EVO: RAIL Solution in 2015.

Dell, EMC, Fujitsu Ltd., Inspur Group Co. Ltd., HP, Hitachi Data Systems, Net One Systems Co. and Super Micro Computer Inc. have previously signed up as EVO: RAIL partners. The notable large storage and server vendors still missing from that list are IBM and Cisco. EMC, parent company of VMware and NetApp's main rival, has not yet released a ship date or any details on its EVO: RAIL product.

EVO: RAIL systems compete with hyper-converged systems from Nutanix, SimpliVity and Scale Computing, and software from Maxta used to build hyper-converged boxes. HP is also planning a hyper-converged storage product based on its StoreVirtual platform as well as an EVO: RAIL product.

Data Ontap will be used for features such as backup, disaster recovery, cloning, replication and moving data off to the cloud.

"We've got software-defined architecture that can easily interconnect now to over 200 NetApp cloud service providers, meaning you can do backup, disaster recovery and applications back and forth," Fore said. "We've got solutions that allow you to do the same thing with Amazon, Microsoft Azure and IBM SoftLayer. With EVO: RAIL, we now provide that same capability to departmental sites to interconnect with their main data center and connect with public cloud services."

Next Steps

VMware leverages VSAN for EVO: RAIL hyper-converged systems

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