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