NetApp slims down latest controller, beefs up channel efforts

Skinny boxen drops from a size 12U to 6U OVERNIGHT with this neat trick


NetApp has announced a slimmed down top-end array, cutting the controller box size in half.

It is a 6U-sized version of the AFF8080 EX, NetApp's most powerful AFF8000 system. The 8000 series product line previously started with the 3U AFF8020, passed through the 6U 8040 and 8060, and peaked with the 12U (2 enclosures) AFF8080 EX. In NetApp terminology AFF means an all-flash array.

How has NetApp shrunk an AFF8080 EX into 6U? Has it junked one of the two controllers in the 12U 8080 EX? Oh no, nothing that easy or limiting.

NetApp's veep for product and solutions marketing, Lee Caswell, told us that NetApp had extended its FAS array flash optimisations from the WAFL read path – the Flash Essentials initiative which "started the process of moving dedupe and compression to in-line" – to the FAS hardware.

"With our scale–out flash controller design, we can now deliver two controllers in one 6U footprint and reduce controller footprint by [half]. Once you add in the SSD shelves, the net savings are slightly less when you consider the entire system," Caswell said.

This "new form factor has been of particular interest to our service provider customers, who prefer higher density in IOPS/RU".

He added: "The pricing of the controllers by themselves dropped by an additional 15 per cent, but we’re sticking with the $5/raw GB street price since the overall impact was similarly less once the entire system cost was considered."

NetApp said the new product delivers the same functionality and scalability as the 12U AFF8080 EX. Its set-up can take as little as 15 minutes and it can be ordered as a standalone system or as a component of FlexPod, the converged server, storage and networking reference architecture created by Cisco and NetApp.

From the competitive point of view, this physically smaller AFF8080 EX "sets us apart from systems that do not scale out, like Pure, and provides investment protection over systems that do scale out but that require controllers and SSDs to be identical, like XtremIO."

We might expect the physically smaller controller technology to appear elsewhere in NetApp's FAS product line.

NetApp said it is also increasing the role of the channel in its all-flash array sales process: "The battle lines in the channel are now drawn. We have startups throwing money and systems at a loss to encourage a new silo of storage. Our offer is to introduce flash seamlessly with a common management path across flash, disk and cloud. For resellers who provide value-added services, this is turning clustered data ONTAP into an attractive IT consolidation platform."

The company has embraced the addition of controller upgrades to support contracts. It said customers who buy "a three-year SupportEdge Premium contract by December 31 2015 are eligible for a new AFF controller free of charge, as part of the renewal process".

The offer "enables customers to extend their standard three-year warranty and support for up to four more years".

NetApp said the smaller AFF8080 EX is available now, and no-charge trial systems can be tested by qualified partners and customers. ®

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