back to article NetApp's running with the big dogs: All-flash FlashRay hits the street

NetApp’s all-new FlashRay solid state array has been launched with limited availability and is not yet ready for prime time, having only a single controller, and lacking scale-out features and some ONTAP integration. These will come with future product upgrades, allowing NetApp to harden and fine-tune the product with this …

They can keep it

Using SSDs and RAIDing them together is NOT how you are supposed to use NAND. There is a reason Skyera put their NAND directly on chips accessible by a PCIE bus, giving them bit level access to each cell without a SATA/SAS obfuscation layer slowing everything down.

I have two SkyHawks, it takes about 5 minutes to get them setup and into the GUI from the box, and the performance blows this "new" offering out of the water without even upgrading to the SkyEagle or the SkyCondor which is on the way.

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Standby for Action!

We are about to launch FlashRay..

Sry, could help that crap StingRay link. :-)

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Price?

It's all free marketing talk without at least a ballpark number, sorry.

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Silver badge

seems like they were forced

to release it before it was ready, kind of sad I suppose. Given it took them what 4-5 years to integrate the spinmaker(?) stuff might it take a similar amount of time to make a bulletproof all SSD platform? Obviously an all-SSD Ontap platform doesn't cut it or they wouldn't of built Flashray. I mean even a soft launch with only one controller is just shocking. I can imagine beta testers etc using 1 controller but it is shocking to do any sort of public release controlled or not that doesn't even have dual controllers.

This and the recent EMC upgrade issues with XtremeIO makes me happy I stuck with 3PAR 7450 for my all flash workload - low cost, high performance, and bulletproof (normally you're only supposed to be able to pick two of any three!). My 7450 is just a bare bones system though it has 27TB raw flash just to start, expandable to over 180TB raw flash with current SSD sizes without adding any disk shelves, or roughly 500T flash with adding some shelves.

No way in hell would I trust Skyera for my mission critical several hundred million dollar/year transactional businesses - not for a good while anyway. Their tech looks interesting, they need a lot more time to demonstrate they have a solid/stable platform though (same applies to any storage startup not them specifically).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: seems like they were forced

Netapp filers used to come as a single controller before they added rudimentary failover clustering. At the time a single controller was acceptable in their core work group market, but that was a different era and they were a different company.

I agree if they could have used FAS they most certainly would have rather than sinking so much into a new platform.The single controller release just emphasizes the panic to get something out the door before the market moves on.

Hopefully adding the second controller in the future won't be data destructive :-)

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Reeks of Desperation

Nate, your spot-on about it being released too early. A single controller? Only 7.8 TB useable? This reeks of desperation. NetApp's revenue's have been flat as of late (which is better than most storage vendors) and they're loosing customers to flash start-ups. This press release is a classic EMC-esque move to "freeze" existing ONTAP customers to prevent them from purchasing a non-NetApp flash solution. What is the key selling point of FlashRay? ONTAP integration! It clearly has no revolutionary features to make it stand-out in the all-flash-array crowd. What it DOES have are features to keep exisitng ONTAP customers on-board and not jump ship.

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Anonymous Coward

"FlashRay in this initial form is surely enough to convince customers NetApp is committed to delivering a good product."

Um, how about no. As said above, it's a single-controller box with pitiful capacity and, apparently, no dedupe or compression. It's not even a me-too offering so much as a "Hey, guys, wait for me!" offering. It will appeal to the devout NetApp faithful; everyone else is looking around at competitors who can offer superior capacity, performance, and scalability at a lower price and wondering whether OnTAP's advanced feature set is worth the NetApp premium.

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This is a joke. NetApp has missed the boat so badly and to then come to market with such an under spec'd machine is laughable. What idiot is going to buy one of these first models? There are about 32 startups and about 5 big vendors with considerably more advanced offerings! It's surprising that NetApp have allowed themselves to get in this mess really. The end is nigh!

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Boffin

Hi folks, Dimitris from NetApp here (http://recoverymonkey.org).

First: Mostly anonymous comments - your feedback is like tears in the rain. Use your real name and disclose affiliation. It's the professional thing to do.

Second: Do read the whole article.

"The end is nigh" my left foot, Mr. Man Mountain... (who works for HP - I had to dig up that little tidbit from one of his past posts). Go take care of your own house instead of spreading sensationalistic FUD.

So here's the deal:

1. All-Flash FAS (AFF) is here TODAY and offers far more maturity, robustness, flexibility and functionality than any other AFA. Nobody can offer this particular combination in the AFA space today.

2. EF is here TODAY, offering great reliability, very short I/O pathlengths leading to low latency, and super high speeds, while remaining extremely cost-effective.

3. FlashRay (and more importantly MarsOS) is not a replacement for either - the vision for the final product far surpasses what the other AFAs are doing. The initial release is still appropriate for several deployments but people needing the extra features today should go with AFF or EF.

MarsOS has a ton of innovation - as time passes more will be revealed. But we looked at all the various architectures out there - and instead of developing from scratch, we could have bought another player if we thought they had something significant to add to the table.

The capability to inter-operate with ONTAP for instance is a big deal. We are trying to make having separate silos not be too painful, yet recognize that one product cannot possibly do it all (ONTAP tries and succeeds for 90% of the workloads out there).

We are building a serious, future-proof tech to carry us for the long haul in the solid space arena. Not the same value prop as small vendors whose only goal is to get acquired.

Building enterprise storage is not easy - making something go fast is easy, making it cheap is easy. Add reliability, flexibility, future-proofing etc. and it gets harder and harder.

MarsOS is designed to work with any CPU architecture and is extensible to any solid state type - not merely optimized for NAND flash. Very important to not paint oneself into a corner.

Look at it from a big picture standpoint. I agree it's hard for some vendors since they cannot address the big picture.

Thx

D

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This post has been deleted by its author

Anonymous Coward

"The vision for the final product far surpasses what the other AFAs are doing",

The operative word being vision and I'm sure all those other AFA companies also have a vision, whether yours or theirs will ever be attainable is speculative at best. Meanwhile all of those other AFA vendors are shipping real product now with a minimum dual controller solution and high availability features (excluding EMC XtremIO of course).

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Anonymous Coward

@Dimitris

"First: Mostly anonymous comments - your feedback is like tears in the rain. Use your real name and disclose affiliation. It's the professional thing to do."

No. I have reasons for not disclosing my real name and affiliation in this context. When talking to my NetApp VAR, I've been happy to explain the ways in which NetApp fails to meet our needs for high-performance storage.

"MarsOS has a ton of innovation - as time passes more will be revealed. But we looked at all the various architectures out there - and instead of developing from scratch, we could have bought another player if we thought they had something significant to add to the table."

Well, good luck with that. I agree that NetApp made the right choice by not buying another player since NetApp's acquisition history demonstrates poor results.

"Building enterprise storage is not easy - making something go fast is easy, making it cheap is easy. Add reliability, flexibility, future-proofing etc. and it gets harder and harder."

I agree that NetApp has a great history of adding powerful features and reliability to their products, but they've lagged badly in the area of performance, and the performance options now are brutally expensive, certainly enough that the discerning customer is obliged to at least contemplate other options.

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@still Anonymous Coward

You say:

"but they've lagged badly in the area of performance, and the performance options now are brutally expensive, certainly enough that the discerning customer is obliged to at least contemplate other options"

Lagged badly vs what? Based on what metrics? Brutally expensive vs what?

Vs something at least as functional AND reliable as NetApp high-performance options?

One of the world's largest companies chose our all-flash gear for one of the most high profile applications on the planet. There was some other gear (many vendors were tested) that was faster but that other gear also miserably failed the reliability tests. And this application is used to generate huge revenue every second.

So it all depends on what you want to achieve in the end.

Ultra high performance with questionable reliability is child's play to achieve, and can be done cost-effectively.

There are a lot of misconceptions in the industry and a lot of FUD flying around.

http://recoverymonkey.org/2014/09/18/when-competitors-try-too-hard-and-miss-the-point-part-two/

Thx

D

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @still Anonymous Coward

As you said "Ultra high performance with questionable reliability is child's play to achieve"

So how do you intend to provide that reliability on a single controller array ?

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Re: @still Anonymous Coward

Read my original post on this thread - FlashRay today is not meant for those deployments that need multiple controllers. We have OTHER all-flash appliances for sale that DO offer this TODAY though.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @still Anonymous Coward

Dikrek, So please expand on that, can you give us some examples of where the use of a single controller array would be a good fit ?

Because outside of a beta testing this for Netapp, I can't think of a single practical use case.

Yes appreciate you have OTHER all-flash appliances, but it appears they're compromised in some way only being pushed as all flash because FlashRay isn't ready, otherwise there would be no need for FlashRay.

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Latecomer?

I wonder why NetApp is often considered a 'latecomer'...

The PAM card (16GB DRAM based Read Cache in a PCI slot) debuted in 2008 (ONTAP 7.3)

Flash Cache (called "PAM II" back then), which was NAND Flash, came in 2009. (ONTAP 7.3.2)

SSDs as disks were supported since ONTAP 8.0.1 in 2010. I've had students in my class who were happily running "All-Flash FAS" back then already. (SSDs for the root aggregate were supported later that year)

Not much had to change for Data ONTAP to support SSDs in an efficient way, since WAFL had handled disks just like SSDs already since 1992: delayed coagulated writes, spreading writes over the whole system (the proverbial "Write Anywhere File Layout", WAFL), delayed garbage collection, background File Layout Optimization ('reallocate'), and so on... Now finally other storage systems start doing the same things as a side-effect of adapting their systems to SSDs.

It's just that Marketing was late to the show and coined the term AFF (All-Flash FAS) fairly recently.

Same story with the EF-Series, by the way. Customers had been ordering E-Series systems with only SSDs already for a while, before the marketeers came up with the "EF" moniker.

By now NetApp has shipped more than 111PB of Flash.

Doesn't look like a Latecomer/Newcomer to me.

To me FlashRay is simply the new 'future-proof' OS-base, for when spinning disk is fading away.

It doesn't seem to me, that NetApp is under a lot of pressure to ship something 'flashy', since the available offerings (EF-Series for raw performance with storage management by the application, AFF for integration in existing NetApp FAS environments and rich on-box management features) are already covering a very broad base. The limited FlashRay release now I see more as a preview of things to come for selected stakeholders. I actually prefer the 'It's ready when it's ready' approach...

my 2c

Sebastian

(disclosure: I'm a NetApp Certified Instructor, but I work for an independent Technical Training Company, not for NetApp)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Latecomer?

Sebastian you really should broaden you horizons a little. It's comical that you can't you see the fallacy in your defense of Netapp, we could all pick some technology or other and suggest the same of any vendor. but it doesn't address the issue at hand.

Netapp are trying to defend their position around rushing Flashray to market, at the same time they also have to be careful not to throw their other platforms under the bus just yet. Flashray isn't ready for prime time, so they need to keep the $$$ rolling in from the faithful on all flash EF and FAS. But it's obvious that If all flash EF series and FAS systems were really good enough, then Flashray simply wouldn't exist, end of.

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