NetApp freshens storage hardware with AFF A-Series flash

A new line of flash storage hardware focused on high availability and performance headlines NetApp's new offerings along with several storage software updates.

NetApp adds a new line of flash storage hardware for file and object workloads today, complimenting its performance block offerings, alongside a refresh of the StorageGRID object storage catalog.

The storage vendor's new NetApp All Flash FAS A-Series line includes the AFF A70, AFF A90 and AFF A1K all-flash storage servers. They target file, block and object workloads that need high availability and throughput speeds using NVMe drives over capacity storage. The NetApp AFF A-Series is available now.

NetApp is also refreshing the StorageGRID object storage lineup, which trails behind the AFF A-Series line in raw speed, according to the company.

Storage vendors need to show how their products can connect into the expanding hybrid cloud ecosystem that many customers create themselves by choice or by accident, said Simon Robinson, an analyst at TechTarget's Enterprise Strategy Group.

NetApp's OnTap storage operating system, which was updated with new features today, and the vendor's BlueXP management console for hybrid cloud workloads differentiate the vendor far more than new hardware, he said.

"We're at the point of maturation in the storage where there's very few revolutions; it's evolutions," Robinson said. "NetApp has a consistent experience [through OnTap]."

NetApp's new hardware and updates are not significantly different from products by the vendor's direct storage competitors like Pure Storage or Dell Technologies' PowerMax line, said Brent Ellis, an analyst at Forrester Research. Instead, NetApp is looking to provide features storage administrators need for daily operations.

"They're trying to address everything you need as an enterprise to use storage," he said. "[The new line] not as fast a [Dell Technologies] PowerMax, but they're not trying to be either."

This year's models

The new AFF A-Series line provides a performance counterpoint the capacity focused AFF C-Series with quad-level cell (QLC) flash memory that launched last March, according to NetApp spokespeople. The line also offers support for more workloads compared to the higher performance, but block storage optimized, All-Flash SAN Array hardware, available in both C- and A-Series variants.

The AFF A70 is the basic version of the line with the AFF A1K offering the most storage and hardware performance, according to the vendor.

We're at the point of maturation in the storage where there's very few revolutions; it's evolutions.
Simon RobinsonAnalyst, Enterprise Strategy Group

The focus of the AFF A-Series on traditional enterprise workloads like Oracle databases and VMware virtualization shows NetApp's customers still have needs to meet without worrying about new generative AI (GenAI) feature creep, Ellis said.

"There are certain types of workloads that need [performant] file or object [storage]," he said. "I'm not seeing [a pitch] about this being your dedicated AI [storage]."

NetApp's entire set StorageGrid storage appliance and load balancer offerings have been refreshed with new components with the SGF6112 all-flash storage appliance now featuring QLC storage media, according to NetApp.

It's been several years since NetApp last updated the StorageGrid line, and the refresh is likely timed to cash in on the increasing GenAI hype among enterprises looking for more object storage, said Ray Lucchesi, founder and president of Silverton Consulting.

Object storage maintains a massive amount of data at lower price compared to file storage, he said, especially if a customer can use the data locally instead of in a cloud where there are service charges and usage fees.

"It's been a long time for a killer app for object storage [on-premises] and AI is that," Lucchesi said.

Software updates

NetApp's latest hardware release also includes a handful of feature updates in OnTap 9.15.1, available today.

Updates to the OnTap software enhance the data protection capabilities for NetApp customers with new real-time detection of file system anomalies. Customers who need to recover can use SnapMirror active sync, available in general availability today, for bi-directional synchronous data replication.

The FlexCache write-back, another new capability available today, aims to reduce WAN latency for storage writes across sites by caching read data locally. This lets writes go to the local cache for better application performance with copy management handled by the application origin, according to NetApp.

BlueXP now includes BlueXP Classification, a new capability for data tagging and classification available at no charge to all BlueXP customers.

Tim McCarthy is a news writer for TechTarget Editorial covering cloud and data storage.

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