NetApp's New Ontap 9 Features Virtual Storage Array, Improved Flash Optimization

NetApp today unveiled the latest version of its Ontap operating system, which it claims will simplify customers' storage architectures and prepare them for flash storage optimization.

The new version, called Ontap 9, includes a virtual appliance that can run on commodity server hardware and in the cloud, and is ready to take advantage of new 15-TB SSDs launching next month, said Adam Fore, director of product solutions and marketing for the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based storage vendor.

NetApp has officially renamed its operating system Ontap, which is a simplification of the previous name, Clustered Data Ontap, A big change in Ontap 9 over previous editions is the removal of much of the complexity involved in deploying it, Fore told CRN.

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Ontap 9 is optimized for NAS or Fibre Channel before it's shipped so it can be quickly optimized for specific workloads including VMware, Oracle, Microsoft SQL, or Microsoft Exchange at the customer site, Fore said.

"For instance, if the customer uses it in a VMware environment, it automatically connects to vCenter to set everything up," he said. "So after plugging it in, the time to deploy data is about 10 minutes, including some cabling elements. Next week, we'll have a video showing this."

John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems (IAS), a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and long-time NetApp channel partner, said the new simplification promised by Ontap 9 is most welcomed by customers.

"It's worthy of some bubbly," Woodall told CRN. "We already did five customer NDA presentations in the last couple weeks."

Woodall said the idea of a 10-minute deployment is in-part marketing speak, but in many situations, Ontap 9 will allow it.

"For customers deploying Oracle, SQL, virtual desktops, and so on, things can be configured with the storage before it's shipped," Woodall said. "When it arrives, just cable it up and deploy it, and the configuration is done automatically."

NetApp's Fore said one major new capability is Ontap Select, a software-defined technology that allows Ontap 9 to be deployed on any VMware-qualified commodity server hardware. Up to four instances of Ontap 9 can be configured in VMware virtual machines and connected in a high-availability solution.

NetApp is also offering a new licensing scheme with Ontap Select. Customers can purchase it at certain capacity points - for instance 100 TBs - and receive an unlimited number of licenses to access that capacity, Fore said.

NetApp will be the first storage vendor to integrate new 15-TB Samsung SSDs when they become available in June in part because of the agility of the Ontap architecture, he said. "There's no need to change the architecture to support the new drives," he said. "No one else can say that."

While Ontap 9 continues to support in-line deduplication and compression, the operating system adds a new in-line compaction, Fore said. In-line compaction squeezes data into the 4-KB blocks common to NetApp storage to save even more space. After data reduction, a 2U storage solution with 12 high-capacity SSDs can store over 1 petabyte of data, Fore said.

Combining the new high-capacity SSDs with NetApp's data reduction technologies means that flash storage will cost less than 10,000-rpm SAS hard drives this year, Woodall said.

"So if there's a workload that was slated to deploy on 10K SAS hard drives, customers can now use NetApp all-flash FAS storage instead," he said. "This will reduce the data center footprint, reduce power use, and reduce the amount of management and tuning needed. So we can really start thinking about an all-flash data center sooner than later."

For protecting data, NetApp's Ontap 9 introduces RAID-TEC, or triple erasure coding. With RAID-TEC, up to three spinning disks or SSDs can be lost without impacting capacity or performance, Fore said. "With the latest large-capacity drives, the rebuild times can be really long," he said.

Ontap 9 also now includes NetApp's SnapLock software-based WORM (write once, read many) technology, which allows customers to set a time during which data cannot be deleted or modified to protect it for auditing and compliance purposes.