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Is NetApp’s Data Fabric made of 70's polyester?

  • KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • ONTAP was built for physical workloads with LUNs and volumes—tears in the Data Fabric
  • SolidFire uses a similar architecture that impedes its ability to set per-VM Quality of Service
  • Building a modern data center requires you find solutions that redefine scale and automation
Is NetApp’s Data Fabric made of 70's polyester?

This week at its annual Insight event, NetApp shared an expanded vision for its Data Fabric. We understand the vision, but our concern is the underlying material. ONTAP is hardly high fashion and SolidFire is made of the same LUNs and volumes as NetApp. They are simply an unnatural fit for the modern data center—kind of like 70's polyester. If you want to avoid being draped in a fabric that just makes you sweat, consider the following:

  1. ONTAP. The primary material from which Data Fabric is woven is ONTAP. And, as many organizations have discovered, ONTAP isn’t very comfortable.

Consider Clustered ONTAP—originally conceived to make it easier to scale your data center and move data across your footprint. But if you’re thinking about moving data across your footprint, you don’t want to be moving entire volumes; you need to be moving virtual machines. The notion that you have to scale LUNs and volumes to scale your storage is a tear in the Data Fabric.

That’s why Tintri took a different approach with its scale-out architecture—launched in May 2016. It has been described as unconventional, and that’s exactly the point. Organizations need to be able to add capacity and/or performance as needed, and so Tintri lets them scale-out a single, federated and loosely-coupled pool of all-flash and hybrid VMstores. It works similarly to how you scale compute: add another VMstore and Tintri VM Scale-out technology will automatically recommend the optimal placement of every VM across your footprint.

Tintri can do that because our file system is fundamentally different. Tintri operates exclusively in the currencies of the modern data center: virtual machines and soon containers. The granularity of the TOS makes it possible to manage every action—replication, cloning, snapshots, QoS, analytics and more—at the VM-level.

The difference between NetApp and Tintri is evident even in the most basic storage tasks. Take for example this interactive infographic that outlines the steps required to provision VMs. Assessing available performance on a NetApp takes 16 steps and hours (or even days). Tintri presents this information on our dashboard, so there’s no guesswork or wasted effort—all because our file system operates in the same units as virtualization and cloud.

  1. SolidFire. While ONTAP is an attempt to bring retro back in style, SolidFire is a newer, shinier piece in the NetApp collection. And so naturally it was prominently featured at Insight and positioned as part of the Data Fabric story.

So, how does SolidFire’s fit with the modern data center compare with NetApp’s? A member of SolidFire’s Office of the CTO recently blogged: “Today, NetApp is focusing all VVOLs development on the SolidFire platform. Why? Not because NFS is “good enough” that VMware customers don’t need VVOLs, but because architecture really, really matters.”

There’s real irony here—architecture matters, but SolidFire is built on the exact same foundation of LUNs and volumes as NetApp. Those are not the units on which the modern data center operates; they cannot make efficient use of your capacity, performance or talent. In fact, SolidFire’s own challenges with metadata have limited them to 2 TB drives (whereas the majority of storage devices now use 4 TB or even 8 TB drives).

And architectural shortcoming can be seen in a longtime SolidFire selling point: Quality of Service (QoS). SolidFire can only set QoS on a LUN, applying the same policy to ALL the resident VMs. And any automation of QoS requires vSphere Enterprise Plus—basically, SolidFire doesn’t allow for any automation of QoS, and requires the vSphere admin or storage admin to select a value. But do either of those individuals really know what value is appropriate for a given LUN? Storage for virtualized environments needs to be smarter than that to avoid the noisy neighbor problem.

Tintri’s VAS file system allows you to establish QoS policies for any individual VM, and even set policies for groups of VMs that are automatically applied to newly added VMs that share the same properties. In this way, the policies you set when you have 500 VMs can hold strong as you grow past 50K VMs—in fact, with Tintri you can manage 1 million VMs. That’s simply not possible with anything in NetApp’s closet, including SolidFire. 

It’s expected for Tintri to take this position, and you can take our word for it, but it’s better when customers do the talking. So, we reached out to our customer community—some of whom are running Tintri and NetApp side-by-side and others who have moved all their virtualized workloads from NetApp to Tintri—to ask them about the difference between operating in NetApp’s LUNs and volumes vs. Tintri’s VM-aware storage. Here is a small selection of their responses:

“Don’t get me wrong … I loved NetApp back in the day. But switching to Tintri has been a game-changer. Licensing is far less complicated. Performance is over the top. Upgrades are way easier. Measuring performance is crazy simple. I love my new Tintri VMstores!” ~ Cathy Frazier, Systems Administrator, Furman University

“Moving from Data Ontap to Tintri was easy, fast and loaded with advantages. Tintri gave us an immediate performance and space boosts and liberated a lot of misspent administrative time previously wasted on resizing LUNs and volumes.” ~ Geoff Grice, Head of IT, CMC

“Free at last!” ~ Brian Sweeney, Senior VMware Engineer

“Compared to Tintri, NetApp’s newest offerings look like old systems.” ~ Matt Crape, IT Manager, C3 Group

“With NetApp, sometimes disk usage would stay at 100% and the delays were so long that end users would just call it a day. We put the same VMs on Tintri and we no longer have any delays.” ~ Tim Starkenburg, Systems Administrator, Life-Science Innovations

If you want to see storage differently, don’t look to NetApp. You can test it yourself right now—for free in just two minutes. We’ve created a simple mock-up of our UI so you can set policies, optimally place VMs and much more. You’ll find that Tintri is styled to the modern data center. Try it on for size, and then request a demo for a more fitted session. 

Chuck Dubuque / Sep 26, 2016

Chuck Dubuque joined Tintri in 2014. Prior to that, he was at Red Hat, where as director of product marketing f...more

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