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I bought my first NetApp system in 1998.  At the time, my engineering team was thrilled with this simple, fast, reliable “toaster” product. It allowed us to store and manage high-capacity Cadence files outside the glass-wall IT organization that was focused on other priorities. 


Since then, NetApp has steadily delivered richer enterprise features for arrays based on that initial Write Anywhere File Layout (WAFL) file system design. WAFL is the basis for our clustered Data ONTAP storage OS, which today packs an impressive list of capabilities for the enterprise:  seamless scale-out, snapshots, async replication, synchronous replication, thin provisioning, multi-tenancy, unified SAN and NAS, and non-disruptive software upgrades. 


As IT management scrambles to adjust to shrinking budgets, the enterprise checklist is a “must” to reduce risk and improve operational efficiency.   All-flash, however, has introduced a wrinkle into this conversation. “Flash First” is evolving as the new norm for on-premises storage investment roadmaps.   NetApp’s field teams say the number one question they get from customers and prospects is around how can we help them with flash.   These enterprise buyers are not clear on whether flash requires a new architecture to be effective or whether existing systems can be optimized for a new media. 


In their pursuit of ultimate performance, early all-flash adopters were willing to do without mainstream functions like built-in data protection or application integration with core enterprise apps – all of the things ONTAP does so well.  They were OK trying out new architectures that created standalone data siloes.


The flash purchasing decision in the heady days of early experimentation had a logical decision tree for customers: If I want raw performance, I go all-flash; if I’m capacity-focused, hybrid works.

Experimentation helps you see what works, but it also brings out the gaps.  What if I’m a customer who wants both the performance boost of all-flash and the full set of enterprise data services I’m used to having?  What if I’m already far along experimenting with that other hot trend – cloud – and I want my all-flash systems to talk to cloud-based storage? What if I have a huge investment in disk, and I want my all-flash systems to be able to integrate across that proven infrastructure?


These are good questions, and NetApp is answering them.  We see all-flash as ready for the mainstream; market watchers show solid-state arrays growing at a 50 percent compound average growth rate.  NetApp itself has over 200 patent assets for flash. And now, the customer who wants the benefits of all-flash in a system that’s ready for broad enterprise deployment has an option — the NetApp All Flash FAS 8000 line (AFF8000). Think of it as enterprise-grade all-flash.  The WAFL file system it utilizes, although not initially designed for flash, turns out to be ideally suited for the new flash media, being a natural wear-leveler for flash that minimizes flash degradation and garbage collection. 


With a few optimizations to clustered Data ONTAP to speed the read path and introduce in-line efficiencies, NetApp now delivers world-class SPC-1 benchmarks with a proven architecture that delivers all of the enterprise value that our engineering team has perfected over the years.   From a development perspective, it’s faster to add performance to an existing full-featured architecture like clustered Data ONTAP than to add enterprise-class data services to a new architecture. 


NetApp AFF8000 customers also benefit from the only all-flash array that offers full data management from flash to disk to cloud.  That means they can do live migration of application storage between disk and flash, synchronous replication across disk, flash, and cloud resources, and spin up a software version of ONTAP running in Amazon AWS.


We’re excited to be bringing this offering to market for our customers.  They want a no-compromise all-flash system, and the AFF8000 delivers. For our sales partners, check out these comments from Bill Lipsin, our VP of global channel sales.  We’ve taken your feedback on how we can work better with you to grow your flash business and give your customers that seamless path to the cloud, whenever they’re ready.


Please join us in welcoming an all-flash product worthy of the enterprise.


Lee Caswell is VP of products and solutions marketing at NetApp.  He has been involved in the flash industry for more than 25 years and was a VP at Fusion-io before joining NetApp last fall.