NetApp Makes Major Turn Toward SSD Storage

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Print this article Print

The world's second-largest independent IT storage provider introduced two new all-flash arrays and new software for maximizing NAND flash in legacy systems.

SUNNYVALE, Calif. -- NetApp, in a global media event Feb. 19, added significantly to its NAND flash-based storage system lineup by unveiling its first all-solid-state array, a new Flash accelerator for servers, and a future new storage line coming out in 2014.

The world's second-largest independent IT storage provider, which has made its reputation on being both economical and efficient with hard disk drive storage, also showed an international group of media members a bevy of improvements in its software catalog, which include intelligent caching features Flash Cache, Flash Pool and Flash Accel -- the latter two being new additions.

In so doing, NetApp put a stake in the ground against competitors such as EMC, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and Dell that indicates a renewed corporate commitment to solid-state storage.

NetApp Executive Vice President of Product Operations Manish Goel introduced the new EF540 flash array and described the forthcoming FlashRay machines, which are currently being tested and will go into beta trials this summer.

"Flash changes the speed of business," Goel told conference attendees. "It's where a lot of new enterprise IT business is moving. However, enterprise requirements for global scale, efficiency, and reliability remain the same. Our approach to flash removes the compromise between speed and those other attributes."

EF540: NetApp First All-Flash Array

NetApp's EF540 has been selling for a few weeks but was officially announced Feb. 19. It runs the SANtricity operating system, and NetApp positions it as the first flash array "to combine consistent extreme performance with enterprise-class high availability, reliability, manageability and worldwide support."

The new system is designed specifically for high-performance applications, such as high-end financial services or scientific research. NetApp claims that it is capable of more than 300,000 IOPS and submillisecond data access in a fully redundant, fault-tolerant architecture. It features user-friendly storage management and advanced tuning functions, NetApp said.

NetApp added to its server-side flash options with Flash Accel, which went into general availability last week.

"This is our software-based caching solution for server-side flash," Goel said. "It accelerates the application performance dramatically, by having a software caching layer that takes advantage of the flash in the compute servers themselves. This allows you to address the performance much closer to the CPU in the application itself."

NetApp FlashRay Lineup Coming Next Year

FlashRay is an all-new, purpose-built all-flash storage architecture featuring improved scale-out and efficiency capabilities to maximize the benefits of flash arrays, Goel said. All that NetApp would say about the new product is that it will "combine consistent, low-latency performance, high availability, and integrated data protection with enterprise storage efficiency features." such as inline deduplication and compression, Goel said.

FlashRay will be available in limited beta in the middle of 2013 and will be generally available in 2014, Goel said. The product line is designed from the ground up to maximize the value of flash.

Analyst's Overview

NetApp has upped the ante in the NAND flash storage business, Jeff Janukowicz, research director at IDC who analyzes to SSD and HDD components markets, told eWEEK.

"It certainly moves them up higher in the (NAND flash) pecking order (versus archrival EMC)," Janukowicz said. "The irony is that NetApp is one of the systems companies that's been doing flash longer than a lot of the other folks. I don't think they've necessarily gotten the credit.

"Flash Cache is one of the most popular flash-related products we've seen to date. For all-flash arrays to gain broader market adoption, it is important to look beyond the performance improvements and deliver must-have reliability, availability, and supportability features. The continued growth of NetApp flash storage systems underscores the value of the company's approach to managing and storing massive amounts of data."

Since its launch 21 years ago, NetApp has become the second-largest independent network-attached storage (NAS) maker/seller in the world behind EMC, and is No. 3 only to EMC and IBM in external disk storage, according to industry researcher IDC.

NetApp's data storage products have won respect from midrange and small and midsize business in general; larger enterprises are also buying NetApp's wares for various applications, generally for regional or remote offices.

Originally published on www.eweek.com.