At their Insight 2017 conference this month, NetApp® introduced a new Microsoft ™ Azure™ Enterprise NFS service powered by NetApp as well as a new release of ONTAP®.
Microsoft Azure Enterprise NFS
As more and more Azure customers start running Linux OS it became apparent that an Enterprise class NFS service was needed to support these applications. NetApp has arguably the most popular NFS offering on the planet and so, it made sense to partner with them to provide this solution to Azure public cloud users.
Microsoft Azure and NetApp will jointly supply this new NFS storage service, where NetApp will run the behind the scenes storage infrastructure and Microsoft will provide user APIs/Admin panel functionality to activate, access & terminate the service as well as customer billing.
NetApp will deploy and manage ONTAP clusters in Microsoft data centers, provision storage volumes and file systems in response to Azure user requests and manage NFS storage infrastructure on behalf of Azure users. NetApp’s Enterprise NFS will first be available in the US, and over time, in the rest of the world.
This is NFS storage as a service but for Azure users. Ultimately, any Azure user can assign Enterprise NFS to their compute instances.
Enterprise NFS will be billed just like any other Azure service offering, on a consumption basis, with a residency cost as well as per IO cost billed by Microsoft Azure to end users.
Eventually, NetApp believes there’s significant upside opportunity with Azure Enterprise NFS. Once customers are using Enterprise NFS, NetApp (or Microsoft Azure) can offer additional data/storage services such as SnapMirror® replication, Snapshots, FlexClones, etc. to be added to their Enterprise NFS bill. They are still deciding just what ONTAP services and performance constitutes base level Enterprise NFS and any other option available at original invocation. But once the Enterprise NFS file system exists, other enhancements can be potentially purchased through Azure’s marketplace or enabled via its admin panel/API.
ONTAP 9.3 will be downloadable in the coming weeks, and it’s a free non-disruptive upgrade for current ONTAP customers worldwide. This is yet another quick release of incremental functionality which is now occurring every 6 months for NetApp storage solutions running ONTAP – AFF, FAS, ONTAP Select, and ONTAP Cloud. The main deliverables include:
- Improved performance – all ONTAP customers should see performance increases, as much as 40% for certain workloads running on AFF. Specific improvements were made to iSCSI and AFF FC storage IO performance.
- Adaptive QoS – storage templates can be used to simplify the provisioning of AFF and FAS storage and apply quality of service SLAs, but now as the storage grows the IOPS SLA can grow with it. This can provide a consistent IOPS/TB performance across the provisioned storage lifecycle.
- Increased storage efficiency – AFF customers using inline deduplication, compression and compaction should see up to 30% increase in effective capacity with ONTAP 9.3. The scope of deduplication is expanded and now can be scheduled to automatically take place in the background to achieve even better storage efficiency.
- MetroCluster® over IP – a simpler, less costly solution for MetroCluster customers based on using IP rather than FC-SAS bridging to connect the two sides in a MetroCluster implementation.
- Enhanced security and compliance – ONTAP 9.3 on FAS and AFF offers external key management via KMIP (Key Management Interoperability Protocol) support for both NetApp Storage Encryption and NetApp Volume Encryption. In addition, ONTAP now offers multi-factor authentication for admin access via SSH, OnCommand System Manager and OnCommand Unified Manager. Moreover, ONTAP 9.3 now offers legal and event based holds for SnapLock customers to prevent deletion during legal proceedings or other external event triggers.
NetApp seems to be going all out after the public cloud. The new Enterprise NFS Azure offering seems logical and takes advantage of NetApp’s historical strengths in file storage. All public cloud providers should have something similar. At the conference NetApp presented a matrix filled with public cloud based offerings that they currently supply or will be available shortly.
ONTAP 9.3 is yet another quick software delivery which releases new functionality and performance improvements for NetApp ONTAP customers. This quicker release cadence has become the new normal for ONTAP, the rest of NetApp and the industry as a whole need to adopt this approach to remain competitive.
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Silverton Consulting, Inc., is a U.S.-based Storage, Strategy & Systems consulting firm offering products and services to the data storage community