NetApp bolsters midrange

By Heidi Biggar

According to the META Group consulting firm, more than 70% of data-center storage requirements can be addressed by modular midrange storage arrays. Yet many users continue to use costly high-end disk arrays for the bulk of their storage needs, even if their applications don’t actually require it.

With this statistic in mind, Network Appliance recently made a series of product announcements that it claims will help midrange users lower storage acquisition costs, improve resource utilization, and manage their storage environments better.

New to NetApp’s lineup are the midrange FAS3020 and FAS3050 systems, a Serial ATA (SATA) option for FAS3000 and FAS960/c systems, and two new V-Series virtualization engines-the NetApp V3020 and V3050. The company also announced that its Data ONTAP 7G operating system, which to date has been available as an option to its family of storage systems, will become the default operating system for the company’s entire platform line over the next several months. NetApp claims that ONTAP 7G’s FlexVol technology can help users increase storage utilization by up to 50%.

The FAS3020 and FAS3050 replace the FAS920 and FAS940. The new FAS3000 series will compete primarily with EMC’s Clariion CX500, IBM’s DS 4000/6000, Hewlett-Packard’s EVA 4000/6000/8000, and Hitachi Data Systems’ Thunder arrays, among others.

NetApp officials claim that the FAS3020 has more than a 2x price/performance advantage over some of EMC’s Clariion models and is more scalable (up to 84TB) than competitive HP EVA arrays despite HP’s recent refresh of its EVA product line (see “HP enters new markets,” InfoStor, June 2005, p. 1).

While ATA disk technology is not new to Network Appliance’s disk system lineup (it has been available with the NearStore family for a couple of years), analysts say that NetApp’s decision to enable users to mix low-cost SATA drives and high-performance Fibre Channel drives in the FAS3000 series not only marks a key NetApp milestone, but also reinforces the evolving role of SATA technology-for both primary and secondary storage applications-in the data center.

“It’s an indication that having a Fibre Channel and SATA mix is now the norm, not the exception,” says Charles King, a principal analyst at the Pund-IT Research consulting firm. “NetApp is the last major vendor to support both drive technologies.”

“NetApp is officially embracing ATA technology for primary as well as secondary storage,” says Brad Nisbet, program manager, storage systems, at International Data Corp. (IDC). “NetApp now offers SATA for primary storage and multiple tiers of storage within that primary storage pool.”

In other words, users now have the choice to “tier” their storage environments using a mix of SATA and Fibre Channel drives depending on application requirements. While its competitors all offer SATA options for secondary (nearline) storage, NetApp says its ability to offer both options for primary and secondary applications is a differentiating factor.

Explains Suresh Vasudevan, senior vice president of product marketing at Network Appliance: “EMC, IBM, and HP already support SATA but it’s restricted to nearline, not primary, applications.”

Instead of mirroring the drives, Net-App uses an adaptation of an old technique called RAID-DP (dual parity), or RAID 6, to protect against multiple drive failures. With RAID-DP, users get the benefit of RAID protection without the capacity/cost penalty of RAID-1 mirroring. As for the performance issues associated with implementations of RAID-DP years ago, NetApp officials claim that they are not a significant factor in the current implementation. The company says that it has reduced the performance degradation to about 2%.

The bottom line, says Vasudevan, is that “we have the same message as the other vendors: If you’re using SATA drives, you need to protect against dual-drive failure. The only difference is that we use RAID-DP instead of mirroring.”

IDC’s Nisbet says that the use of RAID-DP helps ensure the reliability and uptime of the SATA tier of storage. NetApp has been shipping RAID-DP with its NearStore family for more than a year.

The new FAS3000 and V-Series systems will be made available to IBM as part of the OEM deal struck between Network Appliance and IBM earlier this year (see “IBM, NetApp team up against EMC,” InfoStor, May 2005, p. 10). The new FAS systems offer twice the performance as previous FAS models, can scale to 84TB and 336 disks, and can be used for file services (NAS), Fibre Channel SANs, or IP SANs (iSCSI).


FAS3000 series

  • 8x 2Gbps Fibre Channel and 8x GbE ports*
  • Occupies six rack units*
  • Up to 84TB capacity
  • Up to 336 spindles, Fibre Channel or SATA
  • Six PCI-X slots*
  • Up to 20 Fibre Channel ports**
  • Up to 24 GbE ports**

*Enterprise active-active configuration
**Includes onboard and PCI-X card ports, active-active configuration

This article was originally published on July 01, 2005