NetApp refreshes FAS, adds caching appliances

By Kevin Komiega

—NetApp feels the need for speed. The company this week announced a new family of appliances and a set of plug-in caching modules designed to boost overall performance in I/O-intensive environments. NetApp also announced a refresh of its FAS storage systems to improve the performance and scalability of its midrange offerings.

The first new product, dubbed the Storage Acceleration Appliance, is based on NetApp's FlexCache technology and is aimed at accelerating performance in the data center and improving response times at remote offices. The appliance, which is available in three models, sits in front of NetApp storage systems and stores additional cached copies of selected volumes.

The SA200 has 256MB of NVRAM and 2GB of memory in a single-controller configuration—double that for an active-active controller model—with a maximum raw capacity of 104TB. The SA300 has a maximum capacity of 504TB with 512MB of NVRAM and 8GB of memory with a single controller. A single controller version of the SA600 touts 2GB of NVRAM with 32GB of memory and up to 1,176TB of raw capacity.

NetApp's chief marketing officer, Jay Kidd, says the appliance will be particularly attractive to users with a lot of devices simultaneously reading the same data.

"For customers that are passionate about performance, quicker applications mean a competitive advantage," says Kidd. "They are bound by the speed of pulling data off disk."

NetApp did not disclose exact pricing information for the Storage Acceleration Appliances, which will vary depending on configuration and the number of disk shelves.

When questioned about using spinning disk versus solid-state disk (SSD) technologies, Kidd hinted at NetApp's future plans. "SSDs are not a huge leap for us. We're working on SSD technology, but don't have any announcements today."

Second on NetApp's new menu of performance-enhancing products is the Performance Acceleration Module, which is an add-on to existing NetApp storage controllers that boost the size and performance of a system's cache. Kidd says the module can optimize performance to better handle workloads that are random-read intensive, such as file serving.

One or more modules fit into a controller's PCI Express slots, where they function as a read cache to increase throughput and reduce latency. Kidd says the modules provide a cost-effective option for customers looking to scale their storage systems without having to add disk drives to increase I/O rates.

The list price for the Performance Acceleration Module is $15,000, and the software for the module costs $20,000. NetApp requires one software license for each controller. Up to five modules can be installed in a controller, depending on the model.

The modules are available in 16GB capacities for up to 80GB of additional cache for NetApp's high-end systems and 48GB for midrange arrays.

When you crunch the numbers, the first Performance Acceleration Module costs $35,000 and subsequent modules cost $15,000 each, up to the maximum number supported by the particular controller.

NetApp is also pushing the "green" aspects of adding modules, as they consume 95% less power than a shelf of Fibre Channel disk drives.

In the midrange, NetApp introduced the FAS3140 and FAS3170 storage systems, which support Data ONTAP features such as thin provisioning, de-duplication, Snapshot, RAID-DP, and FlexVol.

Also new is a pair of arrays for virtualization—the V3140 and V3170. The V Series, which is essentially a NetApp controller that sits in front of heterogeneous arrays, extends the Data ONTAP operating system and its virtualization functions to legacy hardware. Kidd says the V3140 and V3170 give customers the same architecture, software, and management tools in multi-vendor environments.

The starting price for a 7TB FAS3100 is $69,780, while the disk-less V3100 is priced from $56,365.

This article was originally published on June 12, 2008