Due to the interest generated by the podcast I posted on Monday night about Data ONTAP 8.1.1, I thought it might be a good idea for me to follow it up with a short blog post outlining what I like and don’t like about ONTAP 8.1.1 and what I think about the current state of play with
NetApp ONTAP. I’ll keep it to ONTAP as I am a technologist at heart….
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To Cluster or Not to Cluster
While I appreciate that ONTAP 8.1.1 brings a lot of feature and functionality to cluster mode (c-mode) I’m not sure I quite understand where I would deploy cluster mode versus 7-mode.
In the EMC portfolio, for instance, I understand the use-case lines of demarcation between Isilon and VNX File. One is better suited for general purpose file serving and virtual machine deployments, while the other is more suited to big data, oil & gas, scientific and scale out use cases. I’m not sure I understand the lines of demarcation with ONTAP 8.1.1. Hopefully somebody can clear this up for me.
When ONTAP was at 8.1 the choice was pretty simple. C-mode had pretty much zero feature and functionality in comparison to 7-mode. Want any of the goodness that NetApp was known for, go for 7-mode. Have a niche scale-out type requirement, go for c-mode, or another vendor.
Now that 8.1.1 is announced, the decision is not so simple. C-mode has a lot more about it with the introduction of 8.1.1 and appears to be looking more and more like the flagship half of the product (c-mode and 7-mode being two halves of the same product).
Will development in 7-mode see a huge nose dive now (if it hasn’t already)?
Is c-mode suited for general purpose file serving configurations, or just for more scale-out requirements?
If C-mode is the answer to everything, how do NetApp achieve the twin goals of being great at scale-out and those niche workloads while still being great at general purpose random access file serving? The competition have separate products, one for each. How does ONTAP achieve both with a single product?
Back to Innovating
I could well be lambasted for saying this, but it seems to me that NetApp have had their eye off the ball a little recently (too much internal focus on delivering c-mode?). To me they look to be playing catch-up on tiering, flash usage, and innovating in general.
In saying the above, don’t get me wrong. NetApp have been no slouches. But considering their pedigree in innovating I think they have slipped more than slightly. One or two quick examples -
- No all flash appliance
- No server side flash offering
- No real block based tiering technology
All of the above are big hitters in today’s market and NetApp seem to be lagging. If they;re not careful even HDS will beat them to items 1 and 2 above.
Does One Size Fit All
There’s no doubt, ONTAP has been excellent for NetApp. But is it becoming a bit of a dinosaur? Are they flogging a dead horse?
It seems to have taken an age to integrate Spinnaker (or bring scale-out/cluster-mode) to ONTAP. Why? I appreciate that ONTAP was feature rich to the extreme and integrating all of those features in a scale-out product is no mean feat. But seriously, nearly 10 years to bring scale-out!?
Might it have been a better move to have two separate products (as EMC do with VNX and Isilon)? Heck who knows that EMC won’t kill off VNX File/DART in the future and take more of the NetApp ONTAP route……
ONTAP 8.1.1 looks good from what I’ve heard so far, but the devil is always in the detail. Who knows what caveats there are behind things like Immortal Clusters , Infinite Vols and Data Motion. Oh and ONTAP Edge Mode where ONTAP runs in a VM and brings ONTAP functionality to small branch offices with the option to replicate back to a Data Centre running ONTAP. They all look like cracking technologies from where I’m sitting. They just feel a little over-due.
Oh and if they can nail best of breed general purpose file serving along with scale-out, they will have one hell of a product!
Oh but time for one final question……Is it necessary to have to scale-out by adding HA pairs? Surely HA pairs should be a thing of the past. Surely they are a hangover from ONTAP that they couldn’t code out in time for release?