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NetApp heading cloudwards

New generation software provides cloud storage ONTAP

Looking to provide storage cloud facilities, NetApp has upgraded its array software to Data ONTAP 8, added a much enhanced memory caching card, and is enabling multiple heads for its arrays.

Low-end FAS 2000 arrays will be enhanced to support multiple heads, joining the existing FAS 3000 and 6000 arrays, which are already capable of that. There is also a new drive shelf for NetApp's arrays and ready-made cloud storage installation setups and services.

However, there is no announcement of new high-end hardware more powerful than the existing FAS 6000 arrays, as some expected, and no announcement of solid state drive (SSD) support within NetApp's arrays.

NetApp offers two versions of its ONTAP storage array software: 7G for single arrays and GX for clustered arrays, which uses technology from the Spinnaker acquisition of 2003. ONTAP 8 combines these offerings in a single code base. Customers though will select either 7 Mode or Cluster Mode.

ONTAP 8 offers a scale-out architecture, single global namespace, FCoE support, a Web-services based orchestration layer and APIs, and much enhanced multi-tenancy based on the existing MultiStore technology. NetApp will later add Data Motion, a means of moving large amounts of data from one array to another.

Cluster Mode, for customers operating in high-performance computing or digital media content environments, supports scale-out NAS with transparent data movement - Data Motion - that shares data access and data storage across multiple controllers. It provides enhanced system functions, such as CIFS and striped file systems.

ONTAP 7G introduced the concept of Aggregates, a logical concept sitting between a volume and RAID groups of physical disks. So-called FlexVols (flexible volumes) could be created in them and scaled up or down in size, without reference to the underlying drives, as a user's capacity needs change. ONTAP 8 introduces 64-bit aggregates. This allows an increase in capacity from 16TB to 100TB, enabling very much larger FlexVols to be created. This is appropriate, as 2TB drives are coming and cloud service providers may need to create vastly larger volumes for their customers.

Future minor releases of ONTAP 8 at 3 to 4 month intervals will add several new technologies and features for better cloud storage facilities, including enhanced data mobility, management and service automation, and dynamic scale out. A major release - ONTAP 9 possibly - can be expected in 18 months.

Scale-out storage uses clustering to add complete storage nodes. The interconnect is 10Gbit/E, although InfiniBand is still used for high-availability cluster pairs.

Dynamic scale-out adds heads to NetApp's arrays, but we don't know how many heads can be added and when this will be announced, although ONTAP 8.1 was hinted at, coming at the end of 2009 according to a T-Systems source.

Will it be possible to have ASIS deduplication working across clustered nodes and multiple filer heads? A NetApp spokesperson said: “This is not do-able in the first release and likely won't make it in the 8.1 release either. However the goal is to make this a reality."

"The first step in that goal is to be able to do dedupe across multiple volumes, which will then lead to (dedupe) across multiple heads.”

Existing 7G and GX customers move to ONTAP 8 differently, with 7G customers upgrading on-line and thereby obtaining clustering. GX customers go through a data-in-place upgrade and then a reboot.

Data Motion

Data Motion was developed following requests from NetApp customer T-Systems to be able to non-disruptively move large numbers of user files, such as virtual machines, belonging to a single customer or tenant of its cloud services from one NetApp array to another. T-Systems has several server environments, including IBM p-systems running AIX, and x86 servers running Windows, Linux and other Unix variants. The server software can issue a single request, using an API, to move a tenant from one NetApp array to another, and ONTAP 8 will do that. Data Motion can also be used for load-balancing.

Jeff O'Neal, NetApp's Senior Director for data centre solutions, said: "T-Systems was crucial in helping us build this technology. (It will be) available to current ONTAP customers in early 2010 and an enhanced version will be available to ONTAP 8 customers in late 2010."

NetApp presentation notes said: "One key capability we will offer down the road is the capability of transparently moving, adding, deleting volumes on the flight and without the need to slow down or restart the system. It allows business to add capacity on demand, automatically rebalance the workload among existing storage devices, and enables (an) ongoing, non-disruptive service model."

This leads on to handling an SSD tier of storage in an array: "It also enables us to treat different physical tier services as a software-based configuration model where one can move a volume based on flash memory into a secondary (tier), if needed to... Think of delivering different service levels by using dials—configuration options."

By providing such API access to T-Systems, NetApp is enabling it to use its legacy servers to offer cloud computing services, with all using the same NetApp storage. Thus T-Systems did not have to rip and replace server environments with VMware servers to do this. There is no VMware interface for Data Motion.

A presentation slide note said: "Finally, (Data Motion) allows us to integrate seamlessly with key virtualisation vendors into their solutions such as vMotion, [and] therefore offers our customers an end-to-end virtualisation solution that optimises business data service demands and IT response time." Pretty obviously a VMotion-Data Motion link is coming, but NetApp doesn't want to say when.

It was the opinion of a NetApp source that VMware's VMotion is good for moving one or a few VMs from one storage array to another, but not hundreds or thousands of them. Data Motion will cope with such large-scale movements and help maintain an always-on infrastructure, by moving data off arrays that are going to replaced or serviced and so taken off-line.

Note that a V-Series running ONTAP 8 extends Data Motion to third-party drive arrays, from EMC or HP for example.

Dynamic Data Centre

NetApp has developed something it calls the NetApp dynamic data centre solution to help its customers deliver IT as a service, it says. There is a standardised hardware infrastructure embracing storage, networking, and compute resources, a service management framework, and a delivery methodology using NetApp Professional Services and NetApp system integrator partners to deploy the ITaaS infrastructure.

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