NetApp ONTAP 9 and new SolidFire hw, sw & lic

In ONTAP 9, ONTAP Cloud, ONTAP Select, SolidFire by AdministratorLeave a Comment

This past month NetApp released the newest version of their FAS & AFF storage software called ONTAP 9 and SolidFire announced new hardware, new software version and a new licensing option for storage.

NetApp ONTAP 9

ONTAP 9 is the next generation of Clustered ONTAP and Data ONTAP and offers a simpler approach to storage management. Both clustered mode or 7-mode are replaced by ONTAP 9. NetApp’s ONTAP 9 software can be deployed across flash, disk, and cloud storage resources including engineered FAS and AFF hardware appliances, FlexPod® converged systems, FlexArray® for leveraging 3rd party storage arrays, ONTAP Select (previously Edge) software defined storage on commodity servers, ONTAP Cloud, and NetApp Private Storage (NPS) for near cloud requirements. Some enhancements in ONTAP 9 include support for:

  • Bigger SSDs (15TB on AFF8080) and mixed capacity SSDs;
  • Triple-parity RAID protection for systems using high-capacity HDDs and SSDs;
  • Inline data compaction, and with inline data compression and improved inline deduplication, NetApp now offers a 4:1 effective capacity guarantee for AFF;
  • For AFF: Up to 60% more IO at <1ms & 40% lower latency for same IO vs. 8.3;
  • ONTAP Select for capacity-based SDS in server configurations up to 4-node HA;
  • ONTAP Cloud pay-as-you-use license, now with higher performance and HA;
  • Headroom feature provides visibility of storage node performance;
  • MetroCluster distances increase to up to 300 km;
  • SnapLock (software defined WORM) storage;
  • Copy-free (mind-meld) transition between 7-mode and ONTAP 9; and
  • Faster 10-minute deployments on AFF for Oracle RAC, Microsoft SQL Server, VMware Horizon View and other VMware storage;
  • Mobile AutoSupport tool for simpler health monitoring from a mobile device.

With the new 15.3TB SSDs, an AFF8080 can have up to 1.2PB effective capacity in 8U of rack space. Over 85% of current FAS shipments (and all AFF systems) are delivered with Clustered ONTAP, so for these customers the transition to ONTAP 9 is quick and simple. Some of the performance improvements in ONTAP 9 are achieved by enhancements to write traffic handling, cache allocation, delete processing, and SAN optimization.

SolidFire new hardware, software & capacity-based licensing

The new 1U, SF19210 hardware appliance includes up to 80TB (effective)/node and can deliver 100K IOPS/node for maximum performance. But the big news from SolidFire was their new ElementOS 9 (Fluorine) software release and their new capacity licensing model. Fluorine software includes support for:

  • VMware VVols
  • 3X better FC performance and increased FC scale (doubles # of FC nodes)
  • New user interface
  • VRF Multi-Tenant Networking

SolidFire talked a bit about their new VVols support. The main enhancements beyond base VVol support provided by others is per-VM/VVol QoS support, VASA provider HA, and dynamically scaled protocol endpoints (determined by performance requirements).

SolidFire’s FlashForward new licensing scheme generated the most analyst interest. The genesis of the new model was Dave Wright wanting to provide a way for customers not buying software defined storage could enjoy the same benefits as those that do. Some of these benefits were, on demand capacity purchases, software & hardware are independent purchases, and storage software can move from one hardware system to another without additional costs. FlashForward provides similar benefits because:

  • Customers purchase provisioned (effective) flash capacity, in 100TB increments;
  • Provisioned flash capacity is licensed in perpetuity, to the whole enterprise;
  • Software and hardware can be purchased independently or together; and
  • SolidFire certified hardware is sold separately on a pass-thru, cost basis.

Capacity licensing models have existed before but none quite like this. Customers now decide how much flash provisioned capacity they need and buy that amount. They still have to purchase enough SolidFire certified (or build their own) hardware to support the provisioned capacity and purchased capacity can move from hardware system to system without incurring additional software costs.


IDC reports that NetApp is now #2 in AFA shipments. NetApp stated they have achieved over 30% Y/Y growth in their AFF shipments and are now on a $700M revenue run rate.

SolidFire’s FlashForward licensing model is a gutsy move. One underlying business assumption is that profits from storage no longer reside in hardware, but rather in software. Details and pricing matter, of course, but it’s a bold attempt to bring software defined storage advantages to a wider customer base. Unclear whether other appliance vendors or even their parent company is want to make this transition, just yet for their appliance offerings. NetApp stated they are studying SolidFire’s model, but are not making any promises.

[This storage announcement dispatch was originally sent out to our newsletter subscribers in June of 2016.  If you would like to receive this information via email please consider signing up for our free monthly newsletter (see subscription request, above right) and we will send our current issue along with download instructions for this and other reports. Dispatches are posted to our website at least a quarter or more after they are sent to our subscribers. Also we have recently updated (May 2019) our SAN Storage Buying Guide so if you are interested in purchasing block or primary storage, please checkout our Buying Guide available for sale on our website. ]  

Silverton Consulting, Inc. is a Storage, Strategy & System consulting services company, based in the USA offering products and services to the data storage community.

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