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NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) OverviewUNIXBusinessApplication

NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) is the #1 ranked solution in our list of best All-Flash Storage Arrays. It is most often compared to Pure Storage FlashArray: NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) vs Pure Storage FlashArray

What is NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS)?

NetApp AFF8000 All Flash FAS systems combine all-flash performance with unified data management from flash to disk to cloud.  Leverage the Data Fabric to move data securely across your choice of clouds—enabled by Cloud ONTAP™ and NetApp Private Storage for Cloud. Plus, you get the industry’s most efficient and comprehensive integrated data protection suite, on premises or in the cloud.

NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) is also known as NetApp All Flash FAS, NetApp AFF, NetApp Flash FAS.

NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) Buyer's Guide

Download the NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) Buyer's Guide including reviews and more. Updated: October 2021

NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) Customers
Acibadem Healthcare Group, AmTrust Financial Services, Citrix Systems, DWD, Mantra Group
NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) Video

Pricing Advice

What users are saying about NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) pricing:
  • "The pricing is not a lot considering what you get and it bundles hardware and licensing."
  • "It consolidates a lot of our storage into one or two chassis, which makes money savings in our data center."

NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS) Reviews

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SG
Storage Engineer at Missile Defense Agency
Real User
Good price to performance ratio, no latency, and simple to use

Pros and Cons

  • "The most valuable feature of this solution is its simplicity. It is easy to use."
  • "I want an interface through ONTAP that look more like what it does for the E-Series with Santricity."

What is our primary use case?

We use NetApp AFF mostly as a NAS solution, but we do some SAN with it. Basically, we're just doing file services for the most part.

We're running an AFF A300 as well as a FAS8040 that is clustered together with the AFF A300.

We're not allowed to use cloud models.

How has it helped my organization?

We don't use NetApp AFF for machine learning or artificial intelligence applications.

With respect to latency, we basically don't have any. If it's there then nobody knows it and nobody can see it. I'm probably the only one that can recognize that it's there, and I barely catch it. This solution is all-flash, so the latency is almost nonexistent.

The DP protection level is great. You can have three disks failing and you would still get your data. I think it takes four to fail before you can't access data. The snapshot capability is there, which we use a lot, along with those other really wonderful tools that can be used. We depend very heavily on just the DP because it's so reliable. We have not had any data inaccessible because of any kind of drive failure, at all since we started. That was with our original FAS8040. This is a pretty robust and pretty reliable system, and we don't worry too much about the data that is on it. In fact, I don't worry about it at all because it just works.

Using this solution has helped us by making things go faster, but we have not really implemented some of the things that we want to do. For example, we're getting ready to use the VDI capability where we do virtualization of systems. We're still trying to get the infrastructure in place. We deal with different locations around the world and rather than shipping hard drives that are not installed into PCs, then re-installing them at the main site, we want to use VDI. With VDI, we turn on a dumb system that has no permanent storage. It goes in, they run the application and we can control it all from one location, there in our data center. So, that's what we're moving towards. The reason for the A300 is so that our latency is so low that we can do large-scale virtualization. We use VMware a tremendous amount.

NetApp helps us to unify data services across SAN and NAS environments, but I cannot give specifics because the details are confidential.

I have extensive experience with storage systems, and so far, NetApp AFF has not allowed me to leverage data in ways that I have not previously thought of.

Implementing NetApp has allowed us to add new applications without having to purchase additional storage. This is true, in particular, for one of our end customers who spent three years deciding on the necessity of purchasing an A300. Ultimately, the customer ran out of storage space and found that upgrading the existing FAS8040 would have cost three times more. Their current system has quadruple the space of the previous one.

With respect to moving large amounts of data, we are not allowed to move data outside of our data center. However, when we installed the new A300, the moving of data from our FAS8040 was seamless. We were able to move all of the data during the daytime and nobody knew that we were doing it. It ran in the background and nobody noticed.

We have not relocated resources that have been used for storage because I am the only full-time storage resource. I do have some people that are there to help back me up if I need some help or if I go on vacation, but I'm the only dedicated storage guy. Our systems architect, who handles the design for network, storage, and other systems, is also familiar with our storage. We also have a couple of recent hires who will be trained, but they will only be used if I need help or am not available.

Talking about the application response time, I know that it has increased since we started using this solution, but I don't think that the users have actually noticed it. They know that it is a little bit snappier, but I don't think they understand how much faster it really is. I noticed because I can look at the system manager or the unify manager to see the performance numbers. I can see where the number was higher before in places where there was a lot of disk IO. We had a mix of SATA, SAS, and flash, but now we have one hundred percent flash, so the performance graph is barely moving along the bottom. The users have not really noticed yet because they're not really putting a load on it. At least not yet. Give them a chance though. Once they figure it out, they'll use it. I would say that in another year, they'll figure it out.

NetApp AFF has reduced our data center costs, considering the increase in the amount of data space. Had we moved to the same capacity with our older FAS8040 then it would have cost us four and a half million dollars, and we would not have even had new controller heads. With the new A300, it cost under two million, so it was very cost-effective. That, in itself, saved us money. Plus, the fact that it is all solid-state with no spinning disks means that the amount of electricity is going to be less. There may also be savings in terms of cooling in the data center.

As far as worrying about the amount of space, that was the whole reason for buying the A300. Our FAS8040 was a very good unit that did not have a single failure in three years, but when it ran out of space it was time to upgrade.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature of this solution is its simplicity. It is easy to use.

What needs improvement?

I want an interface through ONTAP that look more like what it does for the E-Series with SANtricity. One of the things that I liked about the SANtricity GUI is that it is standalone Java. It doesn't have to have a web browser. Secondly, when you look at it, there are a lot more details. It shows the actual shelves and controllers, and if a drive goes bad then it shows you the exact physical location. If it has failed, is reconstructing, or whatever, it shows you the status and it shows you where the hot spares are. In other words, be rearranging the GUI, you can make it look like it actually does in the rack. From a remote standpoint, I can call and instruct somebody to go to a particular storage rack and find the fourth shelf from the top, the fifth drive over from the left, and check for a red light. Once they see it, they can pull that drive out. You can't get simpler than that.

There are a lot of features with ONTAP, and the user interface is far more complicated than it needs to be. I would like to see it more visual.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using this solution for about three months

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability is incredible. If you looked up the word "stability" in the dictionary, it would show you a picture of the A300 or the FAS8040 in a NetApp array.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability is not a problem. When we got the new flash system, we were able to combine it with the old hybrid that included iSCSI, SATA, SAS, and flash, into a four-way cluster. It was all running before the end of the day, and we moved about four hundred terabytes worth of data between them.

How are customer service and technical support?

I find the technical support for NetApp to be really good, although I'm a little biased because I used to be one of those guys back in the days under the E-series. If I have a question for them and they don't know the answer, they'll find the person who does. When I was a support engineer, that's the way I worked.

Both pre-sales and post-sales engineers are good. Our presales engineer has been a godsend, answering all of the techie questions that we had. If he didn't know something then he would ask somebody. Sometimes the questions are about fixing things, but at other times it is just planning before we tried something new.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We've had NetApp since day one. Within our organization, there are multiple other teams and almost all of them use NetApp on classified networks. We have a little bit of HP and I think there's a couple of EMCs floating around somewhere, but they're slowly going away. Most of them being replaced by NetApp.

Mainly, NetApp is very robust, very reliable, and they cost less. Nowadays with the government worried about costs, trying to keep taxes down, that's a big plus. It just so happens that it's a very good product. It's a win-win.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was pretty straightforward.

What about the implementation team?

I handled the implementation myself, although I would contact technical support to fill in any gaps that I might have had.

When we installed the new A300, we used NetApp Professional Services because the person who was brought in was able to do it a lot faster than I could. That is all he does, so he is exceptionally proficient at it. It took him about two and a half days, whereas it would have probably taken me a little over a week to complete.

What was our ROI?

The only thing that I can say about ROI is that our costs are probably going to be less than if we had stuck with our original idea.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We didn't have any other vendors on the list, although we had one team that tried to push HP on to us and we said no. HP was really the only other possible alternative that we had. We had tossed around a couple of other vendors, but we never really gave them any serious thought. We already knew NetApp, so it made more sense because they could integrate better and that was the main thing we were looking at. The level of integration. Since we had a NetApp that we've had for many years, it just made sense to stick with what we had, but a newer and faster version.

What other advice do I have?

One of my favorite parts of this solution is that most of the day I sit there and do nothing, watching the lights go green on unify manager, knowing that they should stay green because it indicates that it is working. That's what I look for. It works, and most of the time I don't have to do a lot with it unless somebody wants some space carved out.

I've been in the storage business since 1992. I've been doing work with storage systems before there was such a thing as a storage area network (SAN) or network-attached storage (NAS). Those are buzzwords that came along about fifteen or sixteen years ago and I was well entrenched in storage long before then. My expectation is not very high other than the fact that it's fast and reliable. Other than that, as far as what we can do with it, it's capabilities, I have a pretty low bar because I know what storage can do and I know what it should do and the only time I'm disappointed is when it doesn't do it. I haven't experienced that with NetApp.

The only thing that I would change is the GUI, which is cosmetic. It will not make the product better, but it will make it a lot simpler for those of us who have to support the NetApp equipment, and we can do it in a more timely fashion.

My advice to anybody who is researching this solution is to buy it. Don't worry about it, just buy it. NetApp will help you install it, they'll help you with the right licensing, and they'll help you with all of the questions you have. They will even give you some suggestions on how you might want to configure it based on your needs, which is never accurate, but that's not the fault of the installer. It's usually because the customer doesn't know what they want, but you at least get a good start and they can make recommendations based on past experience. As far as price per performance, this solution is hard to beat. I'm a big supporter.

I would rate this solution a ten out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
CP
Unix Engineer at a healthcare company with 5,001-10,000 employees
MSP
We wouldn't be able to do what we do without thin provisioning

Pros and Cons

  • "Things that have been really useful, of course, are the clustering features and being able to stay online during failovers and code upgrades; and just being able to seamlessly do all sorts of movement of data without having to disrupt end-users' ability to get to those files. And we can take advantage of new shelves, new hardware, upgrade in place. It's kind of magic when it comes to doing those sorts of things."
  • "One of the areas that the product can improve is definitely in the user interface. We don't use it for SAN, but we've looked at using it for SAN and the SAN workflows are really problematic for my admins, and they just don't like doing SAN provisioning on that app. That really needs to change if we're going to adopt it and actually consider it to be a strong competitor versus some of the other options out there."

What is our primary use case?

Our primary use case for AFF is to host our internal file shares for all of our company's "F" drives, which is what we call them. All of our CIFS and NFS are hosted on our AFF system right now.

How has it helped my organization?

We've been using AFF for file shares for about 14 years now. So it's hard for me to remember how things were before we had it. For the Windows drives, they switched over before I started with the company, so it's hard for me to remember before that. But for the NFS, I do remember that things were going down all the time and clusters had to be managed like they were very fragile children ready to fall over and break. All of that disappeared the moment we moved to ONTAP. Later on, when we got into the AFF realm, all of a sudden performance problems just vanished because everything was on flash at that point. 

Since we've been growing up with AFF, through the 7-Mode to Cluster Mode transition, and the AFF transition, it feels like a very organic growth that has been keeping up with our needs. So it's not like a change. It's been more, "Hey, this is moving in the direction we need to move." And it's always there for us, or close to being always there for us.

One of the ways that we leverage data now, that we wouldn't have been able to do before — and we're talking simple file shares. One of the things we couldn't do before AFF was really search those things in a reasonable timeframe. We had all this unstructured data out there. We had all these things to search for and see: Do we already have this? Do we have things sitting out there that we should have or that we shouldn't have? And we can do those searches in a reasonable timeframe now, whereas before, it was just so long that it wasn't even worth bothering.

AFF thin provisioning allows us to survive. Every volume we have is over-provisioned and we use thin provisioning for everything. Things need to see they have a lot of space, sometimes, to function well, from the file servers to VMware shares to our database applications spitting stuff out to NFS. They need to see that they have space even if they're not going to use it. Especially with AFF, because there's a lot of deduplication and compression behind the scenes, that saves us a lot of space and lets us "lie" to our consumers and say, "Hey, you've got all this space. Trust us. It's all there for you." We don't have to actually buy it until later, and that makes it function at all. We wouldn't even be able to do what we do without thin provisioning.

AFF has definitely improved our response time. I don't have data for you — nothing that would be a good quote — but I do know that before AFF, we had complaints about response time on our file shares. After AFF, we don't. So it's mostly anecdotal, but it's pretty clear that going all-flash made a big difference in our organization.

AFF has probably reduced our data center costs. It's been so long since we considered anything other than it, so it's hard to say. I do know that doing some of the things that we do, without AFF, would certainly cost more because we'd have to buy more storage, to pull them off. So with AFF dedupe and compression, and the fact that it works so well on our files, I think it has saved us some money probably, at least ten to 20 percent versus just other solutions, if not way more.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature on AFF, for me as a user, is one of the most basic NetApp features, which just:

A user comes to you and says, "I need more space." 

"Okay, here, you have more space." 

I don't have to move things around. I don't have to deal with other systems. It's just so nice. 

Other things that have been really useful, of course, are the clustering features and being able to stay online during failovers and code upgrades; and just being able to seamlessly do all sorts of movement of data without having to disrupt end-users' ability to get to those files. And we can take advantage of new shelves, new hardware, upgrade in place. It's kind of magic when it comes to doing those sorts of things.

The simplicity of AFF with regards to data management and data protection — I actually split those two up. It's really easy to protect your data with AFF. You can set up SnapMirror in a matter of seconds and have all your data just shoot over to another data center super quickly.

What needs improvement?

But I find some issues with other administrators on my team when it comes to management of the data because they have to either learn a CLI, which some of them really don't like to do — to really get into managing how volumes should be moved or to edit permissions and stuff like that. Or they go into a user interface, which is fine, it's web-based, but it's not the most intuitive interface as far as finding the things you need to do, especially when they get complicated. Some things just hide in there and you have to click a few levels deep before you can actually do what you need to do. 

I think they're working on improving that with like the latest versions of ONTAP. So we're kind of excited to see where that's going to go. But we haven't really tried that out yet to see.

One of the areas that the product can improve is definitely in the user interface. We don't use it for SAN, but we've looked at using it for SAN and the SAN workflows are really problematic for my admins, and they just don't like doing SAN provisioning on that app. That really needs to change if we're going to adopt it and actually consider it to be a strong competitor versus some of the other options out there. 

As far as other areas, they're doing really great in the API realm. They're doing really great in the availability realm. They just announced the all-SAN product, so maybe we'll look at that for SAN.

But a lot of the improvements that I'd like to see around AFF go with the ancillary support side of things, like the support website. They're in the middle of rolling this out right now, so it's hard to criticize because next month they're going to have new stuff for me to look at. But tracking bugs on there and staying in touch with support and those sorts of things need a little bit of cleanup and improvement. Getting to your downloads and your support articles, that's always a challenge with any vendor. 

I would like to see ONTAP improve their interfaces; like I said, the web one, but also the CLI. That could be a much more powerful interface for users to do a lot of scripting right in the CLI without needing third-party tools, without necessarily needing Ansible or any of those configuration management options. If they pumped up the CLI by default, users could see that NetApp has got us covered all right here in one interface. 

That said, they're doing a lot of work on integrations with other tools like Ansible and I think that might be an okay way to go. We're just not really there yet.

For how long have I used the solution?

We've been using AFF for file shares for about 14 years now.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability of AFF has actually been great. This is one of the areas where it has improved over time. During the Cluster Mode transition, there were some rocky periods here and there. Nothing serious, but you'd do a code upgrade and: "Oh, this node is being a little cranky." As they've moved to their newer, more frequent, deployment model of every six months, and focused more on delivering a focused release during that six months — instead of throwing in a bunch of features and some of them causing instability — the stability of upgrades and staying up has just improved dramatically. It's to the point where I'm actually taking new releases within a month of them coming out, whereas on other platforms that we have, we're scared to go within three months of them coming out.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability on AFF is an interesting thing. We use CIFS and that doesn't scale well as a protocol. AFF does its darndest to get us up there. We've found that once we got into the right lineup of array, like the AFF A700 series, or thereabouts, that was when we had what we needed for our workloads at our site. But I would say that the mid-range stuff was not really doing it for us, and our partners were hesitant to push us to the enterprise tier when they should have. So for a while, we thought NetApp just couldn't do it, but it was really just that our partners were scared of sticker-shock with us. Right now we've been finding AFF for CIFS is doing everything we need. If we start leveraging it for SAN I could have something to say on that, but we don't.

What other advice do I have?

Don't be scared. They're a great partner. They've got a lot of options for you. They've got a lot of tools for you. Just don't be scared to look for them. You might need to do a little bit of digging; you might need to learn how the CLI works. But once you do, it's an extremely powerful thing and you can do a lot of stuff with it. It is amazing how much easier it is to manage things like file shares with a NetApp versus a traditional Windows system. It is life-changing if you are an admin who has to do it the old-fashioned way and then you come over here and see the new way. It frees you up from most of that so you can focus on doing all the other work with the boring tools that don't work as well. NetApp is just taking care of its stuff. So spend the time, learn the CLI, learn the interfaces, learn where the tools are. Don't be afraid to ask for support. They're going to stand with you. They're going to be giving you a product that you can build on top of.

And come out to NetApp Insight because it's a good conference and they got lots of stuff [for you] to learn here.

NetApp certainly has options to unify data services across NAS and local and the cloud. But we are not taking advantage of them currently.

I'm going to give it a nine out of ten. Obviously you've heard my story. It's meeting all our needs everywhere, but the one last piece that's missing for me is some of those interface things and some of the SAN challenges for us that would let us use it as a true hybrid platform in our infrastructure. Because right now, we see it as CIFS-only and NAS-only. I would really like to see the dream of true hybrid storage on this platform come home to roost for us. We're kind of a special snowflake in that area. The things we want to do all on one array, you're not meant to. But if we ever got there, it would be a ten.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
Learn what your peers think about NetApp AFF (All Flash FAS). Get advice and tips from experienced pros sharing their opinions. Updated: October 2021.
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JC
Storage Architect at a energy/utilities company with 10,001+ employees
Real User
Top 20Leaderboard
Good simplicity around data protection and data management and has good speed, performance, and reliability

Pros and Cons

  • "The most valuable features of the solution are speed, performance, and reliability."
  • "Tech support is a place where there is room to improve the product experience. The response time when they are busy is not very good."

What is our primary use case?

Our primary use for this solution is for production storage. We have got everything: VMware, SQL servers and file servers. It handles all of them.

How has it helped my organization?

NetApp AFF helped to improve our organization functions by improving our storage solution. We used to use tapes and that required a lot of effort and resources. Now the tape systems are all eliminated. We do onsite, offsite, SnapMirror, and SnapVault backups and it is a much better situation.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable features of the solution are speed, performance, and reliability.

What needs improvement?

The manufacturers are moving very fast with releases and additions of features. Versions 9.5 and 9.6 are already out and they are adding more and more features to every release. It has got way too many features as-is right now. The only improvement they need would be to make what they already have perfect.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability of the solution is very good. The reliability is just top-notch. We have not had any outage or unscheduled downtime. Sometimes a disk fails or the SSD fails, but it gets replaced without any users knowing about it because of service interruptions.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The scalability of the product is wonderful. It is just a simple matter of adding more shelves and provisioning more disk storage. 

How are customer service and technical support?

Tech support is a place where there is room to improve the product experience. Tech support is one thing that I am not 100% happy with and I do not strongly agree with many people who feel it is pretty good. NetApp has a wonderful product, but the support is subpar compared to the other vendors like EMC. So there is clearly room to improve.

The response time when they are busy is not very good. Even the priority-one calls are supposed to have like a two-hour response time or a 30-minute response time. I do not get any calls in that timeframe until I push them through different channels — through the back end.

Also, the primary support call center is in India. I don't get to the real technicians from the support team from North Carolina or places like that until much later. I understand they are trying to filter out calls that do not need upper-level support, but I know what I'm doing. I already know exactly what the problem is and then I still have to go through what should be unnecessary screening. It seems like a lengthy process. In the meantime, I might have only one strand of high availability running, which is not a good situation and I feel very uncomfortable that I could lose service.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We knew that we needed to invest in a new solution as it was mostly a cost-effective decision. When the purchase of our AFF system was announced — which was an AFF8040 — it was not any more expensive than SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) drives. So the cost was about the same and the solution was very effective. Sure enough, we made the right decision. It is performing very well, too, even though it is almost obsolete now.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup of the product was very straight forward to me. I'm certified on just about all the NetApp NCIE (NetApp Certified Implementation Engineer), all of those things like SAN, NAS, and Data Protection. So to me, it was very easy. I mean, they did a wonderful job helping set it up, but as more features are added it became more complex. Someone could easily forget to do one thing, like setting up a firewall, internal firewalls and stuff like that and leave some security holes. But it is fairly easy if you have some expertise and are a little careful.

What about the implementation team?

We did not need any help with the implementation. I do everything myself.

What was our ROI?

I do not study the return on investment or any of those types of things because our department is just constant and we are not a profit center. We know what "I" is, we just do not know what "R" is.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

At the time when we purchased the NetApp AFF, it was bundled into the hardware price. That made the pricing okay. If we were to add more shelves now, the licensing cost increases exponentially. It is probably cheaper to buy brand new hardware in the new model. It will be faster and bundled in with software for a promotion where they throw in all the licenses. It works out well.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Other vendors were not really on the shortlist at the time. NetApp is our standard for now. In the future, I don't know if it will remain that way and we may re-evaluate other solutions. FlexPod may be our future or HCI, but we are using NetApp big-time and it is a successful solution for us.

What other advice do I have?

The solution's simplicity around data protection and data management is very good. The SnapMirror and SnapVault data protection is a wonderful thing. Also using snapshots in lieu of tape or disk backups is handy.


The solution simplifies our IT operations by unifying data management in an approach to staying in NAS (Network-attached Storage) environments. For example, our SAN (Storage Area Network) provides the performance. We have Brocade switches with a fiber channel connection to AFF, which matches the performance of the AFF. We also have the file services. Lots of files are serviced from that as well. We have virtualized all of the hosts and the physical machines to virtual machines. That saved a lot of money and resource and effort.

The solution is helping us to leverage data in different ways. It is just more reliability and simplicity and the performance helps the business quite a bit. We used to experience a significant amount of downtime and outage. We do not experience that anymore, so business probably is more profitable.

I do not have any direct insight into profitability. We are like an expense center and not the profit center: we do not use the computer to make money. We use the computer to support making gasoline and energy.

Thin provisioning allowed us to add new applications and purchase additional storage. The thin provisioning is an essential part of what we do because the SQL DBAs are the worst. They ask for one terabyte for future growth when they need only 100 gigabytes in reality. Without the thin provisioning, I have to give them the one terabyte that they have asked for, which is a waste of resources. So it is a cost savings feature.

The solution has allowed us to move large amounts of data from one data center to another without interruption to the business. It is affecting IT operations in a tremendous way. The reliability is key for the IT services. Not having any outage, unscheduled outage, or latency and performance issues are the most important key features.

The solution has helped improve application response time. We used to have some issues with poor performance when we had the SAS disks. Sometimes we had situations when the VMware was competing for the storage. Now the AFF is just much faster and provides all the data needed for VMware and SQL servers.

The solution has also reduced our data center costs. The thin provisioning, SnapMirror, and all of those features have helped our processes. I'm not sure of any exact amounts but the cost savings are quite a bit.

On a scale from one to ten where ten is the best, I would rate the product as a nine. The product itself is a ten. The services are a seven. But I highly recommend the product.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
RC
Data Protection Engineering at a manufacturing company with 10,001+ employees
Real User
Good snapshot capability and reduced data center costs through storage consolidation

Pros and Cons

  • "The most valuable features of this solution are snapshotting and cloning."
  • "The cost of this solution should be reduced."

What is our primary use case?

This solution provides storage for our entire company.

We have a unified architecture with NAS and SAN from both NetApp ONTAP AFF clusters.

How has it helped my organization?

This solution reduced our costs by consolidating several types of disparate storage. The savings come mostly in power consumption and density. One of our big data center costs, which was clear when we built our recent data center, is that each space basically has a value tied to it. Going to a flash solution enabled us to have a lower power footprint, as well as higher density. This essentially means that we have more capacity in a smaller space. When it costs several hundred million dollars to build a data center, you have to think that each of those spots has a cost associated with them. This means that each server rack in there is worth that much at the end. When we look at those costs and everything else, it saved us money to go to AFF where we have that really high density. It's getting even better because the newer ones are going to come out and they're going to be even higher.

Being able to easily and quickly pull data out of snapshots is something that benefits us. Our times for recovery on a lot of things are going to be in the minutes, rather than in the range of hours. It takes the same amount of time for us to put a FlexClone out with a ten terabyte VM as it does a one terabyte VM. That is really valuable to us. We can provide somebody with a VM, regardless of size, and we can tell them how much time it will take to be able to get on it. This excludes the extra stuff that happens on the back end, like vMotion. They can already touch the VM, so we don't really worry about it.

One of the other things that helped us out was the inline efficiencies such as the deduplication, compaction, and compression. That made this solution shine in terms of how we're utilizing the environment and minimizing our footprint.

With respect to how simple this solution is around data protection, I would say that it's in the middle. I think that the data protection services that they offer, like SnapCenter, are terrible. There was an issue that we had in our environment where if you had a fully qualified domain name that was too long, or had too many periods in it, then it wouldn't work. They recently fixed this, but clearly, after having a problem like this, the solution is not enterprise-ready. Overall, I see NetApp as really good for data protection, but SnapCenter is the weak point. I'd be much more willing to go with something like Veeam, which utilizes those direct NetApp features. They have the technology, but personally, I don't think that their implementation is there yet on the data production side.

I think that this solution simplifies our IT operations by unifying data services across SAN and NAS environments. In fact, this is one of the reasons that we wanted to switch to this solution, because of the simplicity that it adds.

In terms of being able to leverage data in new ways because of this solution, I cannot think of anything in particular that is not offered by other vendors. One example of something that is game-changing is in-place snapshotting, but we're seeing that from a lot of vendors.

The thin provisioning capability provided by this solution has absolutely allowed us to add new applications without having to purchase additional storage. I would say that the thin provisioning coupled with the storage efficiencies are really helpful. The one thing we've had to worry about as a result of thin provisioning is our VMware teams, or other teams, thin provisioning on top of our thin provisioning, which you always know is not good. The problem is that you don't really have any insight into how much you're actually utilizing.

This solution has enabled us to move lots of data between the data center and cloud without interruption to the business. We have SVM DR relationships between data centers, so for us, even if we lost the whole data center, we could failover.

This solution has improved our application response time, but I was not with the company prior to implementation so I do not have specific metrics.

We have been using this solution's feature that automatically tiers data to the cloud, but it is not to a public cloud. Rather, we store cold data on our private cloud. It's still using object storage, but not on a public cloud.

I would say that this solution has, in a way, freed us from worrying about storage as a limiting factor. The main reason is, as funny as it sounds because our network is now the limiting factor. We can easily max out links with the all-flash array. Now we are looking at going back and upgrading the rest of the infrastructure to be able to keep up with the flash. I think that right now we don't even have a strong NDMP footprint because we couldn't support it, as we would need far too much speed.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable features of this solution are snapshotting and cloning. For example, we make use of FlexClone. We're making more use of fabric pools, which is basically tiering of the storage. That way, instead of having just ONTAP with this expensive cost, if we want to roll off to something cheaper, like object storage, we can do that as well.

What needs improvement?

The cost of this solution should be reduced.

SnapCenter is the weak point of this solution. It would be amazing from a licensing standpoint if they got rid of SnapCenter completely and offered Veeam as an integration.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

This solution is very stable. We have had downtime, but only on specific nodes. We were always able to failover to the other nodes. We had downtime from a power outage in our data centers that was mainly because we didn't want the other side to actually have to take a load of an SVM DR takeover because we knew it was going to be back up in a certain amount of time. Other than that, we have had no downtime.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It seems to be almost infinitely scalable. Being an organization as large as we are, it definitely meets our needs.

How are customer service and technical support?

We have onsite staff that is a purchased service from NetApp, so we do not directly deal with technical support.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Prior to this solution, we had all these different disparate types of storage. It was a problem because, for example, but we'd be running on low NAS but there was all the extra storage in our SAN environment. The solution seems a little cheaper, but when you added the whole cost up, it was cheaper for us to just have a single solution that could do everything.

What was our ROI?

We have seen ROI, but I can't quantify how much.

What other advice do I have?

This is a really good solution that definitely meets our needs. It integrates well with all of the software that we're using and they have a lot of good partnerships that enable that. There are a lot of things that can bolt right in and talk to it natively, like Veeam and other applications. That can really make the product shine. I just wish that NetApp would buy Veeam.

I would rate this solution an eight out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
DB
Consulting Storage Engineer at a healthcare company with 10,001+ employees
Real User
A lot of data flexibility and mobility for moving workloads around

Pros and Cons

  • "The solution’s thin provisioning has allowed us to add new applications without having to purchase additional storage. We use thin provisioning for everything. We use the deduplication compression functionality for all of our NetApps. If we weren't using thin provisioning, we'd probably have two to times more storage on our floor right now than we do today."
  • "Something I've talked to NetApp about in the past is going more to a node-based architecture, like the hyper-converged solutions that we are doing nowadays. Because the days of having to buy massive quantities of storage all at one time, have changed to being able to grow in smaller increments from a budgetary standpoint. This change would be great for our business. This is what my leadership would like to see in a lot of things that they purchase now. I would like to see that architecture continue to evolve in that clustered environment."

What is our primary use case?

We use it primarily for CIFS and NFS shares, e.g., Windows shares and network shares for Linux-based systems.

How has it helped my organization?

It has been very helpful for us. Data mobility is big. Being able to move data between different locations quickly and easily. This applies to data protection and replication. The hardware architecture has been very good as far as easily being able to refresh environments without any downtime to our applications. That's been the biggest value to us from the NetApp platforms.

The solution simplifies IT operations by unifying data services across SAN and NAS environments on-premise.

We are working on a lot of efforts right now where environments need multiple copies of data. Today, those are full copies of data, which require us to have a lot of storage. Our plans are that you'll be able to leverage NetApp Snapshot technology to lessen the amount of capacity that we require for those environments, primarily like our QA and dev environments.

We've done full data center migrations. The ease of replication and data protection has made moving large amounts of data from one data center to another completely seamless migrations for us.

What is most valuable?

  • Simplicity
  • Their storage efficiency
  • Compression
  • Deduplication
  • Compaction
  • The ease of being able to move data around.

What needs improvement?

Early on, the clustered architecture was a little rough, but I know in the last four years, the solution has been absolutely rock solid for us. 

Something I've talked to NetApp about in the past is going more to a node-based architecture, like the hyper-converged solutions that we are doing nowadays. Because the days of having to buy massive quantities of storage all at one time, have changed to being able to grow in smaller increments from a budgetary standpoint. This change would be great for our business. This is what my leadership would like to see in a lot of things that they purchase now. I would like to see that architecture continue to evolve in that clustered environment.

I would like to see them continue to make it simpler, continuing to simplify set up and the operational side of it. 

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I can't remember the last time we had an issue or an outage.

It is one of the best solutions out there right now. It is extremely simple, reliable, and seldom ever breaks. It's extremely easy to set up. It's reliable, which is important for us in healthcare. It doesn't take a lot of management or support, as it just works correctly.

Our NetApp environment has been fairly stable and simple that we don't have a lot of resources allocated to support it right now. For our entire infrastructure, we probably have three engineers in our entire enterprise to support our entire NetApp infrastructure. So, we haven't necessarily reallocated resources, but we already run pretty thin as it is.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability has been great. There have been some things I would like to see them do differently, but overall, the scalability has been wonderful for us.

The solution’s thin provisioning has allowed us to add new applications without having to purchase additional storage. We use thin provisioning for everything. We use the deduplication compression functionality for all of our NetApps. If we weren't using thin provisioning, we'd probably have two to times more storage on our floor right now than we do today.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We use all-flash arrays for our network shares. We have a couple of other platforms that we also have used in the past. I really wanted to move away from those for simplicity. Another big reason is automation. NetApp has done a great job with their automation The Ansible modules along with all the PowerShell command lists that they have developed, make it very consumable for automation, which is very big for us right now. That was one of the big driving forces is having a single operating environment, regardless if I'm running an all-flash array or hybrid array. It's the same look and feel. Everything works exactly the same regardless. That definitely speaks to the simplicity and ease of automation. I can automate and use it everywhere, whether it's cloud, on-prem, etc. That was one of the real decisions for us to decide to go that direction.

How was the initial setup?

The overall setup is very easy. Deploying a new cDOT system is the hardest part. On our business side, because our environment is very complex, there was some complexity that came up. In general, that is one nice thing about Netapp. Regardless of how simple or complex your environment is, it can fit all of those needs. Especially on the network side, it can fit into those environments to take advantage of all the technologies that we have in our data centers, so it's been really nice like that.

What about the implementation team?

We did the deployment ourselves.

What was our ROI?

The solution has improved application response time. We are using the All Flash FAS boxes of the AFS and our primary use case is around file shares. These aren't really that performance intensive. Therefore, overall, response times have improved, but it's not necessarily something that can be seen. 

From a sheer footprint savings, we're in the process of moving one of our large Oracle environments which currently sits on a VMAX array, taking up about an entire rack, to an AFF A800 that is 4U. From just the sheer power of cooling and rack-space savings, there have been savings.

I haven't seen ROI on it yet, but we're working on it.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We did RFIs with the different solutions. We were looking at a NetApp, Isilon, and Nutanix. Those were three that we were looking at. NetApp won out primarily around simplicity and ease of automation. It's the different deployment models where you can deploy in the cloud or on-prem, speaks to its simplicity. Our environment is very complex already. Anything that we can do to simplify it, we will take it.

What other advice do I have?

When you are evaluating solutions:

  • What are your goals?
  • What are your priorities? 

You will be looking at things, like cloud, automation, and simplicity, regardless of how big you are. The NetApp platform gives you all of these things in a single operating system, regardless of where you deploy.

The solution has freed us from worrying about storage as a limiting factor. I'm very confident that the NetApp platform will do what they say it's going to do. It's very reliable. I know that if there is an issue, I can quickly move that data wherever I need to move it with almost no downtime. It gives me a lot of data flexibility and mobility. In the event that I did need to move my workloads around, I can do that.

I would give it a nine out of 10. The only reason I wouldn't give it a 10 is because I would like to see some architectural changes. Other than that, its simplicity and the ability to automate are probably the two biggest things. Being able to move data in and out of the cloud, if and when we decide to do that, it gives us the most flexibility of anything out there.

We do not use this solution for AI or machine learning applications.

We are talking about automatically tiering cold data to the cloud, but we are not doing it yet.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
FelmonKahissay
System Administrator at Bell Canada
Real User
Top 20
Offers dedupe, compression, compaction, and the flexibility to offload your cold data to StorageGRID

Pros and Cons

  • "AFF has opened our eyes in a different light of how storage value works. In the past, we looked at it more as just a container where we could just dump our customer dBms and let the customers use it in terms of efficiency. Today, to be able to replicate that data to a different location, use that data to recover your environment or be able to have the flexibility with the solution and data. These are things which piqued our interest. It's something that we're willing to provide as a solution to our customers."
  • "Customer service is one area of the product line where I would love to see improvement. I have had several vendor experiences with NetApp where I faced challenges in the initial call trying to navigate the requirements of the service level expectation. Their response could be better improved. However, the final result is great. It is just the initial support level where improvement would help to effectively solve problems."

What is our primary use case?

Currently, we are leveraging AFF for our VMware environment solution. So, we use it as a storage for our customers and are leveraging it to provide a faster storage solution for VMware customers.

We are using it for block level based only storage, as of today.

How has it helped my organization?

With AFF, the benefit is that we have 27 data centers across the country, we are able to standardize across all them and do storage replication. The simplicity of being able to offload cold data to StorageGRID with the tiering layers that NetApp provides, this just makes it easier for us to be able to reduce labor hours, operations, and time wasted trying to figure out moving data. The simplicity of tiering is a big bonus for us.

In terms of data protection, we have been leveraging SnapMirror with Snapshot to be able to do cloning. For the simplicity, we find it is able to do SnapMirror on a DR site in a disaster situation so we can recover and the speed to recovery is much more efficient. We find it much easier than what other vendors have done in the past. For us, to be able to do a SnapMirror a volume and restore immediately with a few comments, we find it more effective to use.

AFF has helped us in terms of performance, taking Snapshots, and being able to do cloning. We had a huge struggle with our backup system doing snapshots at the VM level. Using AFF, it has given us the flexibility to take a Snapshot more quickly. 

What is most valuable?

The most valuable features are dedupe, compression, compaction, and the flexibility to offload your cold data to StorageGRID. This is the biggest key point, which drove our whole move to the NetApp AFF solution.

AFF has opened our eyes in a different light of how storage value works. In the past, we looked at it more as just a container where we could just dump our customer dBms and let the customers use it in terms of efficiency. Today, to be able to replicate that data to a different location, use that data to recover your environment or be able to have the flexibility with the solution and data. These are things which piqued our interest. It's something that we're willing to provide as a solution to our customers.

What needs improvement?

We are looking at Cloud Volume today. We would like to be able to have on-prem VMs that can just be pushed o the cloud, making that transition very seamless in a situation where you are low on capacity and need to push a VM to the cloud, then bring it back. Seamless transition is something that we really would enjoy.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Stability has so far met all our requirements. We are leveraging pretty well. We haven't really had many issues. 

We struggled a bit in the beginning. But with the support of NetApp, we were able to upgrade to new firmware which helped us become more effective and stable for almost a month now. So, it's pretty good.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability is the most effective way that we have seen so far from NetApp to be able to add additional disks. The ability to leverage the efficiency has also given us the flexibility to integrate it as one solution. Scalability is working for us. As demand grows, NetApp has been supporting it.

How are customer service and technical support?

I would rate the support as an eight (out of 10).

Customer service is one area of the product line where I would love to see improvement. I have had several vendor experiences with NetApp where I faced challenges in the initial call trying to navigate the requirements of the service level expectation. Their response could be better improved. However, the final result is great. It is just the initial support level where improvement would help to effectively solve problems.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Initially, we were working with EMC VNX devices. But as life kicks in, we were looking for a long-term solution and what our roadmap was in terms of storage aspects. We saw the true benefit in terms of cost as well as the efficiency to be able to leverage storage. We found AFF to be a better fit for our use case. 

We had the Dell EMC product line for a long time in terms of portfolio and different options of gears. We looked at NetApp gears and capabilities, not just the storage component. However, the capability of being able to go beyond the storage, as a software-defined solution is something that attracted us to NetApp. It is a fit all solution for now.

In our previous storage, we were doing a lot of roadmapping and giving customers a certain amount of storage. Whether customers used or allocated it, it was sitting in there. With the AFF thin provisioning, it has given us the benefit of being able to reduce our footprint from four arrays to a single 2U array. So, we are able to leverage efficiency and virtual volumes with thin provisioning. This gives us almost three to four times more storage efficiency.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was pretty smooth because NetApp came onsite with their support. They gave us the option to send a technician onsite to do the whole cabling. We were part of the architecting of the whole design, in terms of how we wanted to leverage our data lift and be able to leverage how we want to take control of the data. With their support and being able to set it up through the OnCommand System, it was not a lot of clicks. The initial setup was pretty straightforward. From the expectations that we had and the simplicity of setting it up, it wasn't so complex.

So far, we only have rolled it out in one of our data center heavily. We tested it out, and it's working well. We have put a lot of production workload into it. Our next target is to roll it out across all the data centers. We are hoping to save almost 30 to 40 percent of our footprint initially. That would be a big savings for us.

What about the implementation team?

I am doing the whole migration for the solution.

What was our ROI?

AFF has given us the ability basically to reduce the amount of time that we are spending on OnCommand. What we have been able to do now is leverage in VSC, which has given us the simplicity to be able to provision data store from within the vSphere environment: provision and deprovision. Now, we can give more options to our users to provision their storage as well, there is less of a footprint for storage admins. They can now focus doing more automation rather than just doing the day-to-day work.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Comparing it to other vendors, there was more complexity when leveraging the features with the cost of the features available today, based on where the roadmap is. NetApp seems to fit our requirements for now.

What other advice do I have?

I would rate the product as a 10 (out of 10), but the whole package including the support would be a nine (out of 10).

Cold data tiering to cloud is something that we're looking at today. Right now, we're more focused on StorageGRID and being able to do everything on-prem. However, we are looking at Cloud Volumes to leverage for the immediate term use case and how we could leverage a quick turnaround to the market for our customers' needs.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
MM
Senior Network Technical Developer and Support Expert at a healthcare company with 10,001+ employees
Real User
Improved performance of backup and restore, with good data protection features

Pros and Cons

  • "We are using the AQoS operating system, which allows us to get a lot more out of our AFF systems."
  • "The quality of technical support has dwindled over time and needs to be improved."

What is our primary use case?

NetApp AFF is used to store all of our data.

We're a full Epic shop, and we 're running Epic on all of our AFFs. We also run Caché, Clarity Business Objects, and we love the SnapMirror technologies. 

How has it helped my organization?

Prior to bringing in NetApp, we would do a lot of Commvault backups. We utilize Commvault, so we were just backing up the data that way, and recovering that way.  Utilizing Snapshots and SnapMirror allows us to recover a lot faster. We use it on a daily basis to recover end-users' files that have been deleted. It's a great tool for that.

We use Workflow Automation. Latency is great on our right, although we do find that with AFF systems, and it may just be what we're doing with them, the read latency is a little bit higher than we would expect from SSDs.

With regard to the simplicity of data protection and data management, it's great. SnapMirror is a breeze to set up and to utilize SnapVault is the same way.

NetApp absolutely simplifies our IT operations by unifying data services.

The thin provisioning is great, and we have used it in lieu of purchasing additional storage. Talking about the storage efficiencies that we're getting, on VMware for instance, we are getting seven to one on some volumes, which is great.

NetApp has allowed us to move large amounts of data between data centers. We are migrating our data center from on-premises to a hosted data center, so we're utilizing this functionality all the time to move loads of data from one center to another. It has been a great tool for that.

Our application response time has absolutely improved. In terms of latency, before when we were running Epic Caché, the latency on our FAS was ten to fifteen milliseconds. Now, running off of the AFFs, we have perhaps one or two milliseconds, so it has greatly improved.

Whether our data center costs are reduced remains to be seen. We've always been told that solid-state is supposed to be cheaper and go down in price, but we haven't been able to see that at all. It's disappointing.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable features of this solution are SnapMirror and SnapVault. We are using SnapMirror in both of our data centers, and we're protecting our data with that. It is very easy to do. We are just beginning to utilize SnapVault.

We are using the AQuoS operating system, which allows us to get a lot more out of our AFF systems. It allows us to do storage tiering, which we love. You can also use the storage efficiencies to get a lot more data on the same platform.

What needs improvement?

The read latency is higher than we would expect from SSDs.

The quality of technical support has dwindled over time and needs to be improved.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

This is a stable solution. We are running an eight-node cluster and the high availability, knowing that a node can go down and still be able to run the business, is great.

We do not worry about data loss. With Clustered Data ONTAP, we're able to have a NetApp Filer fail, and there is no concern with data loss. We're also using SnapMirror and SnapVault technology to protect our data, so we really don't have to worry.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability is pretty easy. We've done multiple head swaps in our environment to swap out the old with the new. It's awesome for that purpose.

How are customer service and technical support?

My experience with technical support is, as of late, the amount of expertise and what we're getting out of support has kind of dwindled a little bit. You could tell, the engineers that we talked to aren't as prepared or don't have the knowledge that they used to. We have a lot of difficulty with support.

The fact that NetApp's trying to automate the support with Elio is pretty bad, to be honest with you. In my experience, it just makes getting a hold of NetApp support that much more difficult, going through the Elio questions, and they never help so we end up just wasting minutes just clicking next and next, and let's just open a support case already, type thing. So it's been going downhill.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Prior to this solution, we were running a NetApp 7-Mode implementation with twenty-four filers.

How was the initial setup?

We went from twenty-four 7-Mode filers to an eight-node cluster, so we've done a huge migration to cDOT. With the 7-Mode transition tool, it was a breeze.

What about the implementation team?

We use consultants to assist us with this solution. We do hire Professional Services with NetApp to do some implementations. The technicians that we have been getting on-site for those engagements have been dwindling in quality, just like the technical support. A lot of the techs that we used to get really knew a lot about the product and were able to answer a lot of our technical questions for deployment. One of the techs that we had recently does not know anything about the product. He knows how to deploy it but doesn't know enough to be able to answer some of the technical questions that we'd like to have answered before we deploy a product.

What other advice do I have?

We are looking at implementing SnapCenter, which gives us one pane of glass to utilize snapshots in different ways, especially to protect our databases.

I used to work on EMC, and particularly, the VNX product. They had storage tiering then, and when I came onboard to my new company, they ran 7-Mode and didn't have a lot of storage tiering. It was kind of interesting to see NetApp's transition to storage tiering, with cDOT, and I really liked that transition. So, my experience overall with NetApp has been great and the product is really great.

I think some of the advertisements for some of the products, that can really help us, is kind of poor. The marketing for some of the products is poor. We were recently looking at HCI, and we really didn't have a lot of information on HCI, prior to its deployment. It was just given to us and a lot of the information concerning what it was and how it was going to help wasn't really there. I had to take a couple of Element OS classes, in order to find out about the product and get that additional info, which I think, marketing that product, would have helped with a lot better.

My advice to anybody who is researching this type of solution is to do your research. Do bake-offs, as we do between products, just to make sure that you are getting the best product for what you are trying to do.

I would rate this solution a nine out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
SM
Systems Engineer at Cleveland Clinic
Real User
We had no downtime nor failures; it's rock solid

Pros and Cons

  • "Our AFF 8040 is currently helping us in terms of response time and speed because it is a flash system. Most importantly, it enables our SQL Cluster to respond to database queries and things a lot faster. It minimizes latency."
  • "We currently use some thin provisioning for our planning system, but we will probably move away from thin provisioning because our Solaris planning system actually has some issues with the thin provisioning and way Solaris handles it, since Solaris uses a ZFS file system. The ZFS file system doesn't like the thin provisioning changing things and it brings systems down, which is bad."

What is our primary use case?

The primary use case for AFF is as a SAN storage for our SQL database and VMware environment, which drives our treatment systems. We do not use our it currently for AI or machine learning.

We are running ONTAP 9.6.

How has it helped my organization?

Our AFF 8040 is currently helping us in terms of response time and speed because it is a flash system. Most importantly, it enables our SQL Cluster to respond to database queries and things a lot faster. It minimizes latency and stuff like that, which is important in radiation treatment.

The latency is important in that the data that we serve from the system drives LINAC, which is a big machine that shoots radiation into cancer patients. The latency affects how long the patients end up having to sit there tied down to these tabletops for the radiation treatment. It also helps speed up the setup of the machine, which takes about five minutes because the machine has to rotate around and do all these things. Sometimes, if the system doesn't respond in enough time, these interlocks happen and the machine stops. There are a lot of safety interlocks that cause the system to stop if things don't happen right, so we aren't mistreating patients and killing people. It's not a typical file server. We tell people usually it's a black box for radiation treatment. On airplanes you have the black box which records all data, this is exactly what our NetApps do for radiation treatment.

Our AFF does simplify our SAN and NAS environments. We currently don't use any cloud because we're a medical institution that hasn't approved cloud storage of any type because of HIPAA violations. When we came from our old NAS work solution, we could only do one or the other: It was NAS or SAN. The, AFF provides the ability to do both. It consolidates a lot of our storage into one or two chassis, which makes money savings in our data center. It saves a lot of rack space, which we don't have much of anymore. We have a new building and are almost out of space already.

What is most valuable?

The simplicity of the data management in our current system is really easy, especially with the setting up of redundant volumes and SnapMirror. We have it mirrored over to an 8200 non-flash system. We use that for our DR SVMs, so if our SQL Cluster goes down, the other volumes take over, and we have no downtime because it drives patient treatment. It gets complicated fast. 

The data protection that we currently use is SnapMirrors and SnapVaults. We have our SnapVault off on an offsite with a FAS2552 system.

What needs improvement?

We currently use some thin provisioning for our planning system, but we will probably move away from thin provisioning because our Solaris planning system actually has some issues with the thin provisioning and way Solaris handles it, since Solaris uses a ZFS file system. The ZFS file system doesn't like the thin provisioning changing things and it brings systems down, which is bad. 

One thing that could be improved is the web interface. I would like to see some of the features in the web interface, like where the Snapshots are located, brought up a bit more to the front. This way I don't have to do as many clicks If I'm using the GUI, which I do once in a while. We are usually going in and looking at Snapshots for doing restores, etc., and if it is more upfront or to the surface, it might save a few clicks. It's not so bad.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We have had our AFF for three years now and not had any problems with it whatsoever. It's been rock solid. They haven't lost a drive or node. We haven't had a hardware failure. It has been fantastic.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The scalability of AFF in our NetApp systems in general has been ewonderful. I have another enclosure full of flash drives sitting in our dock right now ready to go in. I can schedule it, put it in the rack, and have it in the system and utilized in maybe half an hour. It works just great.

Our AFF has freed us up greatly in terms of allocating storage. Our old system didn't expand at all. With the new system, we can add another shelf in, merge data into the aggregate, and grow volumes (all live), which is great in a hospital.

How are customer service and technical support?

The tech support has been awesome. We have meetings with our local guys once a month, whether we need it or not, and they answer our questions. I have been able to hot call them on demand on the weekends when we were doing upgrades and side things on our NetApp, then had some issues. I was able to call, and they stop and help out, which has been fantastic. They are probably our best vendor. 

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I chose NetApp because I was most impressed with the engineers that we talked to about the system and its overall metrics along with the things that we were given, like latency and redundancy. I was most impressed with the demos that they did that, which included: ease of setting up an AFF, ease of deploying storage to a SQL Cluster, and just overall simplicity of how easy it is to move data around to back up things.

What was our ROI?

Our AFF has improved our application time greatly. Our database response time has gone up a lot from our previous SaaS storage that we had. The systems were nine-years-old and were about do to go. When we went to the flash, we noticed a huge increase application response rate (50 percent or more). It was like night and day.

It was more of an expensive system at the time when we bought it because flash was relatively new. We probably save the most amount of money just in the time to set up with it. We had to set up in an afternoon, then we were serving out data later on that day. Just the fact that it's been rock solid. We haven't had to sit there and baby it, fixing things, tweaking and tuning it. It just works. The biggest savings is not having to sit there and keep it warm.

What other advice do I have?

I would give our AFF probably a 10 (out of 10). We had no problems with it. It's an easy upgrade. We can do everything on the fly in the middle of the day, which is important. With the hospital, it's been a great all around piece of hardware.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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