NetApp Gets Partners Ready For The Cloud

The enhancements include a new version of its Data ONTAP operating system, a new technology for seamlessly moving complete data volumes across multiple storage systems, a new version of its add-on modules for increasing storage performance, and a new high-density capacity expansion device for its storage appliances.

The goal of the new products is to provide more of the key elements customers need when considering cloud computing, said Jay Kidd, chief marketing officer at NetApp.

Kidd defined cloud computing as a business model for delivering IT as a service, and said it comes in two forms, including private clouds built specifically for a single customer, and public clouds featuring shared IT or non-IT capabilities that are available for anyone to use.

NetApp wants to bring solution providers and their customers the hardware and software to help take advantage of cloud computing, Kidd said. However, the company has no desire to offer cloud computing services, which Kidd said would mean competing with many of its own customers.

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"We won't compete by offering our own services," he said. "We offer the technology and capability to develop and operate cloud services, including storage, server and networking technology. Our product offering is in storage and data management, but when we work with customers, we help them with related services such as how to deploy virtual servers and manage networks."

In addition to new hardware and software, NetApp introduced relationships with several technology partners, global service providers and integrators to help customers build cloud infrastructures.

Among them include enterprise solution providers such as Avnet Technology Solutions, INX and Long View; service providers including Joyent, Rackspace, Siemens IT Solutions and Services, Tata Communications, Terremark and T-Systems; and system integrators including Accenture, Avanade, CSC and Unisys.

NetApp is making its cloud computing offerings available to other channel partners as well, Kidd said. "But it will be limited to partners with the sophistication to deploy cloud infrastructures," he said.

The new products introduced on Tuesday, however, will be available through NetApp's wider partner base.

The first is a major release of the Data ONTAP operating system, which unifies the company's traditional storage operating system with the grid-based technology it received as part of its 2004 acquisition of Spinnaker.

Data ONTAP 8 combines ONTAP 7G and its Spinnaker-based ONTAP GX into a single storage operating system that works across all its storage appliances to provide a scalable, clusterable storage architecture with virtualization capabilities, the ability to simultaneously work with multiple separate customers' storage, and a range of automation features including chargeback, Kidd said.

One new feature of Data ONTAP 8 is NetApp Data Motion, which allows customers to migrate a set of data volumes, either in file or block format, between multiple storage controllers.

That set of volumes is configured as a virtual filer, or vFiler, which behaves like a physical storage appliance. It is the vFilers that are moved between controllers with NetApp Data Motion, Kidd said.

"This is important for maintenance to make sure data remains available," Kidd said. "It's also important for load balancing. If a customer runs out of bandwidth, the data volume can be moved to another controller."

On the hardware side, NetApp rolled out its Performance Accelerator Module, an add-on cache memory board for many of the company's appliances that speeds up the performance of mission-critical applications.

The new module features 256 GB or 512 GB of flash memory and will be sold in addition to the previous module, which features 16 GB of DRAM.

Flash memory costs about one-tenth DRAM on a per-GB basis but features significantly slower performance, Kidd said. However, flash memory is still much faster than spinning disk and costs less than what it would cost for enough spinning disk capacity to get the same increase in performance, he said.

As a result, for applications whose data sets can fit within 16 GB of storage, the company's original DRAM-based module gives faster performance. However, for larger data sets, or for multiple applications, customers can consider the flash-based module, Kidd said.

The new flash memory-based cache module costs about twice the price of the current DRAM-based module, Kidd said.

Rolf Strasheim, director of client solutions at Peak UpTime, a Tulsa, Okla.-based solution provider and NetApp partner, said his company has sold a couple of the DRAM-based performance accelerator modules, but that the flash memory-based versions may be more suitable to a wider range of customers.

"Sixteen Gbytes is too small," Strasheim said. "A half-Tbyte of flash memory is an interesting capacity point. Often times, tier-one data such as Oracle or SQL databases or Exchange fits that capacity. This takes the performance accelerator module from being something niche-related to a wider environment."

Also new from NetApp is the DS4243 disk shelf, which can be configured with up to 24 hard drives totaling up to 48 TB in a 4U rackmount space. The new shelf is available with SAS or SATA drives and connects to existing NetApp appliances to expand their capacity.