Tag Archives: NetApp

NetApp AI storage packages OnTap all-flash FAS A800, Nvidia

NetApp is jumping into the AI storage market with a platform that combines OnTap-powered All Flash FAS arrays with Nvidia supercomputers.

NetApp AI OnTap Converged Infrastructure is a validated architecture combining NetApp’s FAS A800 all-flash NVMe array for NFS storage with integrated Nvidia DGX-1 servers and graphical processing units (GPUs). NetApp said the reference design verified four DGX servers to one FAS A800, although customers can start with a 1-1 ratio and nondisruptively scale as needed.

 “The audience for this type of architecture is data scientists,” said Octavian Tanase, senior vice president of NetApp’s Data OnTap system group, during a live webcast this week. “We want to make it simple for them. We want to eliminate complexity (and give) a solution that can be integrated and deployed with confidence, from the edge to the core to the cloud. We believe they will be able to adopt this with a lot of confidence.”

The product is intended to help companies implement data analytics that bridges a core data center, edge computing and cloud environment, said Jim McHugh, a vice president and general manager at Nvidia Corp. He said Nvidia DGX processors build on the foundation of Nvidia Cuda GPUs developed for general-process computing.

“Every industry is figuring ‘we need better insights,’ but better insights means a new computing block,” McHugh said. “Data is really the new source code. When you don’t spend time writing all the features and going through QA, you’re letting data drive the solutions. That takes an incredible amount of parallel computing.”

The joint NetApp-Nvidia product reflects a surge in AI and machine learning, which requires scalable storage to ingest reams of data and highly powerful parallel processing to analyze it.

In April, NetApp rival Pure Storage teamed with Nvidia to launch an AI storage platform with DGX-1 GPUs and Pure’s scale-out NAS FlashBlade array.

Capacity and scaling of NetApp AI OnTap

The NetApp FAS A800 system supports 30 TB NVMe SSDs with multistream write capabilities, scaling to 2 PB of raw capacity in a 2U shelf. The system scales from 364 TB in two nodes to 24 nodes and 74 PB. NetApp said a 24-node FAS A800 cluster delivers up to 300 gigabits per second of throughput and 11.4 million IOPS. It supports 100 Gigabit Ethernet together and 32 Gbps Fibre Channel network connectivity.

The NetApp AI storage platform is tested to minimize deployment risks, the vendors said. A NetApp AI OnTap cluster can scale to multiple racks with additional network switches and storage controller pairs. The product integrates NetApp Data Fabric technologies to move AI data between edge, core and cloud environments, Tanase said.

NetApp AI OnTap is based on OnTap 9.4, which handles enterprise data management, protection and replication. Each DGX server packs eight Nvidia Tesla V100 GPUs, configured in a hybrid cube-mesh topology to use Nvidia’s NVLink network transport as high-bandwidth, low-latency fabric. The design is intended to eliminate traffic bottlenecks that occur with PCIe-based interconnects.

DGX-1 servers support multimode clustering via Remote-Direct-Memory-Access-capable fabrics. 

Enterprises struggle to size, deploy AI projects

AI storage is a hot topic among enterprise customers, said Scott Webb, who manages the global storage practice at World Wide Technologies (WWT) in St. Louis, a NetApp technology partner.

“In our customer workshops, AI is now a main use case. Customers are trying to figure out the complexity. DGX and AI on a NetApp flash back end is a winning combination. It’s not only the performance, but the ability for a customer to start small and [scale] as their use cases grow,” Webb said.

John Woodall, a vice president of engineering at systems integrator Integrated Archive Systems, based in Palo Alto, Calif., cited NetApp Data Fabric as a key enabler for AI storage deployments.

“The speeds and feeds are very imp in AI, but that becomes a game of leapfrog. With the Data Fabric, I think NetApp has been able to give customers more control about where to apply their assets,” Woodall said.

Hitz: NetApp market growth hinges on cloud, data management

NetApp marked its 25th year of business in 2017, highlighted by its launch into hyper-converged storage based on SolidFire all-flash arrays. The NetApp market strategy is in transition. Layoffs were part of recent cost-cutting measures, as well as an earnest push to sell more all-flash storage.

Founders Dave Hitz, James Lau and Michael Malcolm started NetApp in 1992. The company started out selling Unix workgroup-level filers to programming teams designing software using NFS, and then it became the leading NAS supplier.

Twenty-five years after helping to start NetApp, Hitz, the executive vice president, is the lone remaining founder still at the company. We spoke with him about the NetApp market changes over the decades as NetApp has adapted to technologies such as cloud computing, flash storage and hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI).

There are changes going on in enterprise storage today, including continual data growth and heightened customer expectations for fast storage. How do these changes compare to what NetApp experienced in its early days?

Dave Hitz: NetApp has been through radical transformation multiple times. When the internet came along, we basically ripped up our roadmap. When VMware hit, many people thought that meant everything would be virtualized, not just servers. That view was only half right.

Dave Hitz, co-founder, NetAppDave Hitz

We thought server virtualization was awesome, but we also knew that the data challenges were immense. We dug in to start helping customers with managing those data challenges. Much of our growth was fueled by how well we partnered with VMware. Even after EMC bought VMware — which scared us, I’ll admit — a lot of analysts said that NetApp had a better culture of partnering than EMC did.

The previous big transformation was being a tech and internet company. Early on, our foundational growth was in the internet space in the dot-com boom. When that collapsed, we were in a world of hurt. In the first six months after the crash, not one of our 10 biggest customers bought a storage system from us. Our stock went from around $150 down to about $5 or $6, like a plane in a nosedive.

Fortunately, before the downturn, our CEO and CFO were paranoid and said, ‘We’ve got to be more diversified.’ We picked five vertical areas, including banking and financial services, major manufacturing, medical and government. We hit $1 billion in revenue and then dropped to $800 million after the dot-com bubble. After three years, we were back to $1 billion in revenue.

The first time we hit $1 billion, the NetApp market was 70% tech and internet and 30% of the new style of enterprise storage. The second time we hit $1 billion, it was flipped the other way. That was an enormous transition for us technically, as we started to add SAN failover and super-high-reliability stuff.

Despite the rapid growth in data, the enterprise storage market is not growing much these days. How do you avoid another nosedive?

Hitz: If you look at the overall on-premises storage market as a whole, growth is flattish. But within that trend are some radical changes. One is the flash style of storage. We started late in all-flash, but our growth been amazing. Of the top five storage vendors, NetApp has the fastest growth in flash, according to the analyst firms.

Our share in the flash space is higher than our share of the overall enterprise market. If we can hold that position, we should be able to emerge out of the transition to flash with a higher share than when we first started, even if the overall storage market remains flat.

Another big opportunity is in what I describe as the next-generation data center: lots and lots of commodity white box 1U systems, with Ethernet cables running to a switch at the top of the rack. Increasingly, this is the zone of hyper-convergence, which is why we announced our HCI product this year based on SolidFire all-flash arrays.

As with all-flash, NetApp was late to the hyper-convergence market. How does SolidFire stack up to established disk-based HCI platforms?

Hitz: My mental image of SolidFire is that the data just flows between the nodes like water. Picture a four-node minimum of SolidFire nodes. If you attach another node, SolidFire does a little math to let the data drift from a full node into a node that isn’t full. SolidFire software-defined storage automatically rebalances the system when you add a node.

Nutanix and other HCI vendors focus so much on virtualization side because VMware costs so much. Many customers would love to replace VMware. But they aren’t solving a new problem. For us, we can partner with VMware to solve the back-end storage issues within the context of hyper-convergence.

A big part of the NetApp market strategy revolves around the cloud. What have you done to try and separate your cloud services from other enterprise array vendors?

Hitz: In 2014, we launched OnTap Cloud to run in Amazon Web Services. It’s a version of OnTap running in the cloud that uses Amazon compute and storage. There is no physical system or cost of goods. All the revenue is from software. Customers use Cloud OnTap to migrate their data seamlessly back and forth. We also provide the enterprise storage for Microsoft Azure.

That is exactly what we are trying to [do] now with NetApp Data Fabric. What we’re doing goes way beyond selling a storage array. Even though the bulk of our revenue is from storage systems, don’t think of [us] as a storage system vendor. The enterprise on-prem business isn’t going away, but at the same time, the center of gravity is moving to the cloud.  When they buy on-prem storage, customers are asking lots of strategic questions about the cloud. One of them is: ‘Which vendor can help me move to the cloud when I’m ready in a year or two?’ We want NetApp to be the obvious answer.

NetApp-SolidFire storage operating systems nudge closer

Nearly two years after acquiring SolidFire, NetApp is giving the all-flash platform and its technology a greater role in its product lineup.

Besides using SolidFire arrays as the key building block of the new NetApp HCI system, NetApp integrated SolidFire features into its flagship Ontap operating system.

NetApp-SolidFire integration appeared in the new operating systems — NetApp Ontap 9.3 and SolidFire Element OS 10 — released at the NetApp Insight conference last week in Las Vegas.

NetApp-SolidFire enhancements include the ability to replicate NetApp SnapMirror snapshots from Element OS systems to Ontap-based storage. Support backup targets include cloud-connected NetApp AltaVault backup appliances and StorageGrid Webscale object storage. NetApp also integrated quality of service from Element OS into Ontap 9.3.

NetApp also introduced its Elio virtual support engine, which is built on the artificial intelligence powered by IBM Watson cognitive computing, and updated Active IQ cloud-based predictive analytics for health diagnostics across its Data Fabric technologies. NetApp also released StorageGrid 11.

NetApp: SolidFire’s Element OS broadens the reach of Ontap, Data Fabric

All-flash array startup SolidFire originally launched Active IQ as part of Element. The $870 million NetApp-SolidFire acquisition in 2015 accomplished a pair of goals that had eluded NetApp. SolidFire SF-Series all-flash arrays allowed it to scrap its long-delayed FlashRay product, which was only available as a single node. NetApp this week also finally entered the hyper-converged infrastructure market with the help of SolidFire storage.

Quality of service is something we could have done sooner in Ontap, but now it’s state of the art.
Octavian TanaseSVP of Ontap software and systems group, NetApp

The SolidFire Element OS was written with native support for quality of service (QoS). By integrating it in Ontap 9.3, NetApp is eyeing customers who run a greater variety of applications with Clustered Ontap operating system than they did with Ontap 7-Mode.

The NetApp-SolidFire adaptive QoS in Ontap 9.3 allows customers to set a floor and ceiling for performance and use “smart bursting” as applications require it, said Octavian Tanase, a senior vice president of NetApp Data Ontap software and systems group.

“Quality of service is something we could have done sooner in Ontap, but now it’s state of the art. As we upgraded from Ontap 7-Mode to Clustered Ontap, that’s when customers started to deploy heterogeneous workloads, to get capacity and performance on one system,” Tanase said.

NetApp ‘democratizes’ DR, targets data security

NetApp MetroCluster in Ontap 9.3 allows disaster recovery workloads to run across IP-based networks, in addition to traditional Fibre Channel support. Running across IP eliminates the need to install SAS-to-FC bridges or expensive switches.

“We think we have been able to democratize DR,” Tanase said.

Ontap 9.3 adds multifactor authentication, a configurable engine that requires users to invoke a second token to gain access to data. The update supports external key management for WORM compliance with NetApp SnapLock volume management.

NetApp StorageGrid 11 added the ability to mirror on-premises data to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. It permits authorized users to run Apache Hive script in an Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud and mirror data to an Amazon S3 bucket.

StorageGrid 11 will notify Amazon Lambda to run facial recognition for security when a user requests images stored in an AWS.

NetApp also refreshed its OnCommand Insight management tool, most notably adding an analyzer for estimating AWS costs.

NetApp customers, partners press on after Las Vegas shooting

LAS VEGAS — Against the backdrop of a mass shooting here, NetApp customers and others attending the vendor’s annual Insight conference were understandably subdued. NetApp said about 4,000 people showed up for the event at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, but that is about half the anticipated attendance.

Many of the shows attendees returned home with memories of experiencing terror up close on the Las Vegas Strip. They saw SWAT teams on the street and in the air, and a stream of ambulances carrying gunshot victims. They were scared by rumors of more shooters as they scrambled to connect with co-workers and were forced to leave — or stay in — their hotel rooms for hours during a citywide lockdown.

NetApp Insight resumes, but ‘melancholy’ mood prevails

NetApp postponed its kickoff event originally scheduled for Monday. When NetApp Insight opened on Tuesday, NetApp customers and partners at the show said they struggled to go on with business as usual.

 “The mood here is very melancholy. People are looking around, more concerned about security,” said Tony Phan, a storage engineer at eBay, which he describes as a “big NetApp shop.”

On Sunday, Oct. 1, on the eve of NetApp Insight, a gunman identified by police as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire from his suite at the Mandalay Bay hotel. He killed 59 people and wounded hundreds more at an outdoor concert. Paddock later was found dead in the hotel room.

Las Vegas was placed on lockdown for the next 24 hours, with McCarran International Airport and Interstate 15 shut down, and major arteries in and out of the city blocked.

Phan arrived for Insight at 10 p.m. Sunday, at roughly the same time police say the shooting started. Phan had booked a room at New York-New York Hotel and Casino, about three blocks south of Mandalay Bay, and arrived shortly after reports of a second gunman inside his hotel.

“People were running through the lobby yelling, ‘There’s a shooter, there’s a shooter.’ It turned out to be false. There was no [second] shooter, but it was just chaos. People were panicking everywhere,” Phan said.

A SWAT helicopter descended around New York-New York to investigate the reports of a second shooter, and other SWAT officers appeared on the ground on the Las Vegas Strip.

A second helicopter hovered above the rooftops of MGM Resorts, following more erroneous reports of another gunman. Taking no chances, teams of armed police officers methodically conducted floor-by-floor searches of each hotel. Even after an “all clear” was given, those inside the hotels were not permitted to leave for several more hours.

As the helicopters whirred above, a stream of ambulances howled down Las Vegas Boulevard for the better part of two hours, ferrying shooting victims to nearby hospitals. A manager at the Tropicana Las Vegas resort offered the hotel’s luggage racks to serve as makeshift gurneys, transporting shooting victims to a hastily arranged triage area.

NetApp has a large on-site team to help coordinate the events at Insight. Several team members said they, like thousands of other visitors, were stranded in the aftermath of the shooting. Two team members were having dinner at Mandalay Bay when they suddenly were forced to evacuate. They hid in a cinema until 6:30 Monday morning.

A NetApp executive said she arrived at her hotel around 10:30 Sunday night, only to receive a flurry of texts from colleagues asking if she was safe. Then, she couldn’t find those same colleagues.

A bomb threat at the Luxor Resort and Casino put that facility on lockdown and heighted anxiety, although it proved to be a false alarm. The Luxor adjoins Mandalay Bay and is connected via a walkway.

‘Thought it was fireworks’

Among the NetApp customers to remain was Scott Stockton of Polsinelli PC law firm in Kansas City, Mo. Stockton, a Polsinelli systems engineer, said he heard a series of pops that he associated with the Route 91 Harvest music festival across the street from Mandalay Bay.

“I heard the shots, but I thought it was fireworks,” Stockton said, echoing a description used by survivors who attended the concert.

Stockton said he considered leaving Las Vegas on Monday, but decided to stick it out to show support for NetApp.

“I think they acted appropriately. They postponed the first day to give people time. We’re all here to learn; that’s why we come. We all have to keep going,” Stockton said.

The U.S. Navy uses a lot of NetApp storage gear, which is why Angel Pereira made the trip from Fort Bragg, N.C., to Las Vegas. Pereira, an integration systems specialist with U.S. Navy, learned of the shooting when a colleague called his cellphone to check on him.

“I was asleep in my hotel. I didn’t even know what had happened until everything was all over,” Pereira said, adding that he never considered leaving NetApp Insight.

“I was already here. I probably would have come anyway [even after the shooting]. You just have to keep going on. You can’t stop,” Pereira said.

NetApp customers and employees weren’t the only ones in attendance struggling to cope. Mike Brooks, a local freelance stagehand hired to work the event, heard about the shooting on the news, shortly before leaving Sunday to help with setup for Insight. Brooks did not leave for Mandalay Bay until Monday, only to turn around and go home after learning the resort was still locked down.

Brooks returned for Tuesday’s NetApp events, but said the Insight crowd was far below what he’s used to seeing at other Las Vegas conferences.

People are trying to move forward, he said, but it is difficult.

 “You can tell people don’t want to talk about [the shooting]. If you bring it up, there’s this awkward pause as people ty to change the subject,” Brooks said.

Microsoft Azure taps NetApp Ontap for native NFS storage

LAS VEGAS — NetApp this week previewed NFS storage as a consumable service available within the Microsoft Azure cloud stack. The move comes after a recent series of partnerships with Microsoft, and it forms a key piece of NetApp’s cloud storage strategy.

The Azure Enterprise NFS Service is based on the NetApp Ontap operating system. Microsoft will sell NetApp file-storage services to enterprise users, and the vendors will share the revenue.

The Azure Enterprise NFS Service is separate from the NetApp Cloud Ontap virtual storage appliance. Microsoft Windows Server already supports NFS. Adding NetApp Ontap allows users to implement the vendor’s Data Fabric data migration and protection tools.

NetApp Ontap for Azure Enterprise NFS is designed to make it easier to move NFS workloads across multiple cloud environments, said Jennifer Meyer, a NetApp senior director of cloud product marketing.

“This is not NetApp Ontap running on top of Azure. We are embedded in the Microsoft Azure stack. You would use it just like any other service in the Azure console, but it would be powered by NetApp storage,” Meyer said.

The Azure NFS service extends a string of recent partnerships for Microsoft and NetApp. It includes NetApp Fabric Pools to tier cold data to Microsoft Blob storage and NetApp Cloud Control data service SaaS-based compliance archiving of Microsoft Office 365 data.

NetApp declined to say if it plans to offer a similar Ontap integration in Amazon Web Services, but that seems like a logical next step. NetApp has been performing better than its counterparts in networked storage, but executives at its Insight user conference this week stressed that sustainable success will hinge on offering multiple cloud storage options.

“It’s not that we’re not talking to other cloud providers [about doing this], but Microsoft asked NetApp to build NFS in Azure. That’s why we’re starting with Microsoft,” said Brett Roscoe, a NetApp vice president of products, solutions and services marketing.

NetApp HCI launches at subdued user show

LAS VEGAS — NetApp on Wednesday displayed the centerpiece of its annual user conference, the NetApp HCI platform built on SolidFire all-flash arrays, launching its long-delayed foray into hyper-convergence.

The hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) appliance was supposed to be the highlight of the NetApp Insight user conference at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, although the mood was decidedly subdued in light of the mass shooting that took place here earlier this week.

“For us, this announcement is just to let everyone know that the product is out on the market,” said Aaron Delp, director of marketing for NetApp emerging technologies.

Delp said early access customers have placed orders for the system, but he declined to disclose how many or who they were. He said NetApp will start shipping the HCI gear toward the end of October. Product specs have been available since June.

As with its entry in all-flash storage, NetApp is several years late to the HCI market and has ceded territory to Dell EMC, Nutanix, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and other rivals. Even longtime NetApp FlexPod partner Cisco last year unveiled HyperFlex HCI, based on file-system and fabric technology it developed with Springpath.

“This is NetApp’s declaration that it has an HCI solution. HCI has reached the point where customers are starting to issue requests from vendors. Not having an HCI product was becoming a problem for NetApp,” said Howard Marks, chief scientist and founder of DeepStorage, a storage advisory and testing firm in Hoboken, N.J.

“I think this is more of a defensive move than NetApp playing offense. I don’t think it’s going to be a huge source of net-new customers for NetApp,” Marks added.

Is NetApp selling CI or HCI? Does it matter?

NetApp HCI integrates the first version of the SolidFire Element OS to be fully developed by NetApp after it acquired SolidFire in 2015. This marks version 10 of Element OS, and NetApp is continuing SolidFire’s tradition of naming upgrades according to the periodic table. This version is called Element Neon.

Not having an HCI product was becoming a problem for NetApp.
Howard Marksfounder, DeepStorage

John Rollason, a NetApp senior director of products and solutions marketing for next-generation infrastructure, said the vendor wants to make it easy for customers to install, manage and scale the product.

“There is an absolute shift in the market of people moving away from as much of the [manual] configuration as possible. They want a simple and programmable infrastructure,” Rollason said.

This will be NetApp’s first stab at hyper-convergence. It was among the vendors to announce a hyper-converged product based on VMware’s short-lived EVO:RAIL partner program in 2014. But NetApp never brought that product to market.

The NetApp HCI appliance expands its use case for SolidFire SF-Series storage arrays. NetApp continues to sell SolidFire SF-Series arrays as a separate storage product from its FAS and EF-Series all-flash systems.

SolidFire flash storage modules also are offered as an option in NetApp’s FlexPod converged infrastructure. The NetApp FlexPod SF combines SolidFire storage with Cisco servers.

NetApp HCI combines SolidFire SF storage arrays, Element Neon scale-out block software and a NetApp-designed compute server. It does not run storage through a hypervisor, which is a hallmark of most HCI platforms. NetApp HCI requires four nodes to start, but Element OS allows compute and storage nodes to be added individually. A base building block consists of two SolidFire storage nodes running Element OS and two compute nodes for VMware vSphere. Two open bays allow for linear scaling of compute or storage independently with Element OS, which is written natively for quality of service.

Element Neon integrates with NetApp Data Fabric, OnTap features

Compute and storage nodes come in small, medium and large sizes. NetApp HCI storage nodes provide 2.8 TB, 5.8 TB and 11.4 TB of raw storage. Compute nodes range from a small of 16 cores and 256 GB of RAM, medium sizes with 24 cores and 512 GB of memory to large versions with 36 cores and 768 GB of memory.

Element Neon is integrated with NetApp Data Fabric features and capabilities. These include replication of SnapMirror snapshots between Element and Data OnTap operating systems and the ability to back up data from SolidFire to NetApp AltaVault backup appliances and StorageGRID object stores. VMware ESXi and vCenter virtualization management come preinstalled with a NetApp SolidFire vCenter plug-in.

New software in the NetApp HCI stack includes the Intuitive Deployment Engine and Active IQ cloud-based analytics.

“From a scaling point of view, we think that’s one of the big differentiators we have. You can scale compute and storage independently and don’t get the HCI tax that is common with first-generation platforms. As you scale nodes, you get all of their capabilities,” Rollason said.

The challenge now for NetApp is closing the gap with competitors. Marks said NetApp would have led the market had it been two years earlier with its HCI product. “Now, they have to fighting a battle against someone who’s already taken Pork Chop Hill,” Marks said. 

According to IDC research, Dell EMC passed Nutanix as the HCI market leader in the second quarter of 2017. IDC put the total HCI market at $763.4 million for the second quarter.