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NetApp goes all in on Fibre Channel-based NVMe-over-Fabrics

On-premises boost paired with public cloud blanket extension

NetApp has announced a real biggie for storage wonks: support for Fibre Channel-based NVMe-over-Fabrics (FC-NVMe) access to all-flash ONTAP arrays using Brocade gear.

The firm also released a faster flash array, deeper public-private cloud integration, plus an object storage update.

NetApp claimed it now has the first enterprise-class end-to-end NVMe platform (after the death of DSSD, that is). This would mean it'll push its NVMe access past Dell EMC, Nimble, Kaminario and Pure Storage, and catch up to IBM, sitting pretty with its FlashSystem InfiniBand-based NVMe-over-Fabrics support.

NetApp's FC-NVMe is enabled by an ONTAP software upgrade for existing Brocade Fibre Channel-using all-flash arrays.


The A800 is the new top dog in the AFF series of all-flash arrays, and the A220s has been introduced as a higher-capacity entry-level system:

  Max SSDs Max Raw Capacity Max Effective Capacity Max Memory
A800 2880 79 PB 258.3 PB 15.36 TB
A700s 2592 79PB 258.3PB 12.3TB
A700 5760 175.7PB 574.5PB 12.3TB
A300 4608 140.5PB 466.6PB 3.1TB
A220 1728 48.3PB 193.3PB 768GB
A200 576 8.8PB 34.7PB 256GB

The A200 numbers are included for reference. The A800 – with its NVMe SSD support and 25 per cent more memory than the A700s and A700 – is said to deliver 1.3 million IOPS at <500μs latency, and read throughput up to 300GB/sec per cluster.

The A220 is said to be 30 per cent faster than the A200, with a 3X increase in DRAM, as well as supporting three times the number of SSDs.

The A220 to A800s support from two to 24 nodes (12 HA pairs) in NAS scale-out form, and 2 to 12 nodes (6 HA pairs) in SAN scale-out form. The A200 is limited to 2 to 8 nodes in NAS scale-out form and similarly limited in SAN scale-out guise.

ONTAP v9.4

The latest version of ONTAP delivers the FC-NVMe support. Joel Reich, NetApp's EVP for storage systems and software, said: "With ONTAP 9.4 you can upgrade select AFF models to run FC-NVMe if you already use Brocade generation 6 switches. FC-NVMe runs more efficiently to deliver greater bandwidth, more IOPS, and lower latency versus the standard SCSI-based FCP."

ONTAP 9.4 adds support for 30TB SSDs, multi-channel SMB and more back-end public cloud integration. It can move (tier) cold data from on-premises storage to Azure and AWS and also on-premises object storage, such as NetApp's StorageGRID Webscale, and back again.

Customers can upgrade from ONTAP 8.3 to 9.4 without downtime.

The transition from Data ONTAP 7-Mode needs a 7-Mode Transition Tool (7MTT) and recommended best practises such as copy-free transition (CFT).

There are, NetApp said, straightforward import processes from third-party storage to ONTAP 9.4.

Get an ONTAP v9.4 PDF datasheet here.

Public Cloud

NetApp's Cloud Volumes technology has been extended from AWS and Azure to the Google Cloud Platform. Check the below video about using this to create volumes in AWS and populate them ready for use by AWS compute instances.

YouTube Video

Such volumes can be automatically kept in sync with on-premises volumes. There's a Google blog about the NetApp Cloud Volumes partnership here.

NetApp has also introduced FabricPool, which automatically tiers cold data from primary storage to AWS and Azure to reduce capacity costs, and Active IQ. This is cloud-based analytics that predicts future performance needs and identifies unprotected data to optimise operations.

Object Storage

Having quietly revealed the SG5700 StorageGRID webscale appliance in February, NetApp is now making more of a song and dance about it.

The SG5700 hardware differs little from last year's SG5600, with the same two form factors – 4U x 60-drive and 2U x 12-drive – the same 4, 6, 8 and 10TB disk drive support, and the same 600TB and 120TB maximum raw capacities for each. Now 25GbitE support has been added to the existing 10GbitE networking.

Whereas the SG5600 required v10.4 of the StorageGRID Webscale software, the SG5700 needs v11.0. NetApp spoke of this having erasure coding with dynamic disk pools.

+ Reg comment

We still have the prospect of NetApp storage-class memory (SCM) support using its Plexistor technology.

Customers wanting to build a FC-NVMe access route to their all-flash arrays can find out more here (registration required). This is an April 2017 document, though, but it's probably worth a read to get the basic technology understood.

NetApp claimed that, with FC-NVMe, users can run 60 per cent more workloads with AFF A-series systems, or reduce the application response time by half. ®

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