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NetApp adds new flash hardware, debuts VMware DR service

The enterprise storage vendor continues its hybrid cloud portfolio push with capacity flash for the ASA hardware family and bolts a VMware DR service to its BlueXP console.

NetApp aims to bring flash storage to the masses and wade into disaster recovery with a new service for protecting VMware environments.

The enterprise storage vendor showcased its new all-flash SAN array (ASA) C-Series storage hardware today at its annual NetApp Insight conference. The new hardware provides buyers a cheaper quad-level cell (QLC) flash memory option compared with NetApp's existing all-flash storage hardware with a focus on block storage applications.

Beyond the addition of capacity-centric flash, NetApp is also debuting a new disaster recovery service for VMware environments through its NetApp BlueXP console, a combination of cloud management tool and service storefront.

The DR service, now in public preview, enables customers to failover and failback in on-premises VMware environments to another on-premises environment or into the cloud.

Companies such as IBM and Pure Storage trailblazed the market for capacity flash in customer data centers, said Steve McDowell, an analyst and founding partner at NAND Research. NetApp's entry signifies a market among enterprise buyers that has matured enough to make the lower pricing of flash both possible and sustainable for the future.

"[The market has] proven QLC is a great solution for nearline storage," McDowell said. "The market has shifted, and NetApp is riding that shift."

Not yet at flash capacity

NetApp's new ASA-C hardware will provide an additional technology bedrock for its OnTap storage operating system and data management tools, which will be further augmented through new cloud AI capabilities using Nvidia's DGX platform to enable generative AI creation.

Using NetApp's OnTap to spur the creation of generative AI systems might be a touch fantastical for many enterprises, according to Scott Sinclair, an analyst at TechTarget's Enterprise Strategy Group. But providing lower-cost flash hardware with performance superior to spinning platter hard drives should meet many storage buyers' needs into the next decade, he said.

Upstart storage vendors such as Pure Storage might have gotten the jump on customers looking to buy into flash early with aggressive pricing, Sinclair said, but a significant market still exists among companies looking to upgrade.

Buyers are always way behind where the vendors are. ... [NetApp] may be slightly behind, but they're not behind the market needs.
Scott SinclairAnalyst, Enterprise Strategy Group

"Buyers are always way behind where the vendors are. ... [NetApp] may be slightly behind, but they're not behind the market needs," Sinclair said.

Born-in-the-cloud software companies looking to create on-premises experiences using their established cloud software will likely turn to capacity flash hardware to maintain equivalent functionality, according to Sinclair.

"If I'm very cloud-centric and I'm building up my on-premises environment as an edge environment where cloud is my core, they may not have a lot of that established technology," he said.

Sinclair added that NetApp's pitch to tackle AI workloads also reflects an ongoing trend among storage vendors, where hype surrounding generative AI can bring interested buyers into contact with established technologies such as machine learning (ML). Once buyers see the maturity of existing AI and ML technology, they might also invest in new storage hardware to work alongside it.

"There still is tremendous benefit in predictive AI models and workloads," Sinclair said. "The assumption is the generative AI will have a halo effect on other workloads."

A path into DR by NetApp

NetApp's new disaster recovery offering marks another challenge to Pure Storage, which debuted a similar VMware recovery service earlier this month.

NetApp's BlueXP DR for VMware enables customers to failover their on-premises VMware vSphere VM infrastructure under the domain for BlueXP into another data center or public cloud. Currently, the only supported hyperscaler is AWS, using Amazon FSx for NetApp OnTap to move data, but support for Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud is forthcoming.

Krista Macomber, an analyst at Futurum Group, said VMware remains a major target for ransomware attacks as it still dominates enterprise infrastructure. Protecting those workloads is an obvious, yet still important, starting point for DR or cyber-resilience ambitions, which both NetApp and Pure Storage appear to share.

"Cyber-resiliency is a board-level concern these days," Macomber said. "It's been elevated to the highest ranks with enterprises."

NetApp will expand its Ransomware Recovery Guarantee to all on-premises hardware using the OnTap operating system. The warranty reimburses customers if they're unable to recover their data from snapshots when contacting NetApp support services or a third-party approved partner.

Tim McCarthy is a journalist from the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts. He covers cloud and data storage news.

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