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NetApp AFF A700s flash array slims down A700 footprint

NetApp launches small-footprint A700s version of its high-end All Flash FAS A700 with built-in SSDs, updates all-flash capacity guarantee for A-Series flash storage line.

NetApp launched a slim version of its All Flash FAS (AFF) A700 and updated the capacity guarantee for the entire A-Series flash storage line.

The new NetApp AFF A700s array's four rack-unit (4U), dual-controller chassis is less than half the size of the A700 model that NetApp shipped in November. The minimum configuration for the A700 is an 8U chassis with a 2U 24-drive storage shelf for SSDs. The smaller footprint A700s has 24 built-in SSD slots, aimed at space- and power-constrained customers.

"Our customers want a very dense footprint when they're getting flash," said Adam Fore, director of solutions and product marketing at NetApp, explaining the impetus for the new A700s. "They're looking for an appliance that provides the performance and capacity in as small an environment as they can get. People are trying to consolidate data centers."

NetApp's updated All-Flash Guarantee pledges up to 5-to-1 data reduction on a workload-specific basis. If the system fails to deliver the promised data reduction ratio, NetApp will provide additional capacity to make up the difference. NetApp's data reduction consists of inline deduplication, compression and compaction, Fore said.

New A700s supports 15.3 TB SSDs

The 4U NetApp AFF A700s, which is due to ship this month, can deliver 600,000 IOPS. The maximum raw capacity is 367.2 TB, when the 24-drive chassis is equipped with 15.3 TB triple-level cell 3D NAND SSDs from Samsung, according to Fore. He said the effective capacity of a dual-controller A700s chassis is approximately 1 petabyte (PB) after data reduction.

Fore said a single dual-controller A700s chassis supports up to eight 24-drive expansion shelves for a maximum raw capacity of 3.3 PB, and effective capacity of 13 PB. The system can also scale out to 24 nodes, or 12 high-availability pairs, for a maximum raw capacity of 39 PB and effective capacity of 155.5 PB, according to NetApp.

The main differences between the high-end A700s and A700 are scalability and serviceability. The single dual-controller A700 can support up to 20 storage shelves, compared to eight with the A700s. Plus, the A700 is a blade-like chassis that offers nondisruptive platform servicing, Fore said.

"We designed the 700 around some of the requirements that our service provider customers had asked for," Fore said. "They wanted no downtime even through upgrading the system. We can do that with our clustering, but they wanted to actually have it on the individual platform basis."

Fore said the A700s requires a system shutdown and data evacuation to upgrade the controller, unless the array is part of a clustered architecture. Using NetApp's clustering capabilities, the system could move data in real time onto other systems to allow the nondisruptive upgrade or controller replacement, he said.

"It's a more involved process to do the maintenance that way," Fore said.

NetApp AFF A-Series specs

In addition to the A700 and A700s, the NetApp AFF A-Series also includes the entry-level A200 and midrange A300. All models support 15.3 TB Samsung SSDs as well as lower capacity 3.8 TB and 960 GB SSDs from multiple manufacturers. Self-encrypting drives are available at 3.8 TB on all models, with additional 800 GB self-encrypting options for the A200 and A300. NetApp also offers software-based drive encryption through its ONTAP 9.1 operating system that started shipping in October, Fore noted.

The NetApp AFF A700s, A700 and A300 models support the latest 32 Gbps Fibre Channel (FC) storage networking technology as well as 40 Gbps Ethernet (GbE). The maximum connectivity speeds for the entry-level A200 are 16 Gbps FC and 10 GbE.

All NetApp AFF A-Series models can connect to public clouds, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud and others.

The starting list price for the new A700s is $470,000, according to NetApp.

All-Flash Guarantee details

Fore said NetApp's new workload-specific All-Flash Guarantee focuses on production data. He said the prior 4-to-1 data reduction guarantee included both production data and snapshot copies, and was not workload dependent.

"The whole snapshot element actually made it a little bit harder to understand the storage side," Fore said. "These snapshots actually were a big part of the savings. Each snapshot is effectively a full copy."

Fore said, with the new All-Flash Guarantee, NetApp would use a sizing tool that factors in data-reduction levels for different types of data, such as virtual desktop infrastructure, databases or virtual servers. The data reduction guarantee will vary by customer and apply to the total amount of data they store in the system, inclusive of all workloads. The maximum guarantee is 5-to-1 data reduction.

"Each customer has a unique profile, and we will guarantee the savings associated with their workload or data profile. It's one guarantee that encompasses" all workloads, Fore said.

Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting in Beaverton, Ore., said NetApp's All-Flash Guarantee is loaded with caveats. "This means it's a marketing play. It gets them in the door. It's similar to the guarantees from Pure Storage and EMC, HDS or others," he wrote in an email.

Scott Sinclair, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Austin, Texas, said guarantees have become "table stakes for all-flash arrays," and customers have grown to expect them. "However, guarantees lose their effectiveness the more qualifiers you put on them," Sinclair said. "Five to one is an excellent ratio to guarantee, but the workload-specific elements might make it more confusing. That's something that I'm sure NetApp will address in execution."

Fore said NetApp saw considerable skepticism in the marketplace about data reduction guarantees because many are "overly narrow" and don't apply to all data types.

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