Joel Reich.jpgThis week NetApp introduced new E-Series storage systems that use flash technology to deliver industry leading performance for enterprise applications. Specifically, the EF560 posted the best combination of price and performance for all-flash storage systems with an average response time of less than 1 millisecond based on the Storage Performance Council’s SPC-1 benchmark.


I recently met with Joel Reich, Senior VP of the E-Series Products Group, to learn more about the new products and where they fit.


You get to meet with lots of enterprise customers. What are their top IT challenges?


Reich: Their IT challenges usually fall into one of two buckets. One major challenge is how to leverage the cloud to increase agility, and the other is how to optimize existing enterprise applications and infrastructure – the IT systems that are core to business operations. What’s interesting is that while cloud gets most of the press coverage, the majority of IT time and budget is spent managing and maintaining the core, non-cloud systems.


When it comes to storage, SAN performance needs to keep pace with changes to the rest of the enterprise infrastructure, including servers, operating systems and applications. Our new E-Series systems meet that need by providing the best combination of price-performance, low latency, and reliability compared with other storage systems.


The SPC-1 results are impressive. How does the EF560 compare with other all-flash systems?


Reich: Our customers buy all-flash systems for performance, and performance is best compared by using benchmarks. The SPC-1 benchmark simulates random block-access workloads, such as OLTP systems, database systems, and mail servers, so it’s a great way to compare systems from different manufacturers. The SPC-1 result puts us at the top of the pack for price-performance, ahead of systems that are claimed to have been “designed from the ground-up” for flash. We encourage customers to benchmark our flash systems against our competitors because we will invariably win those competitions.


There are a couple of things to keep in mind when comparing SPC-1 results:

    1. You need to look at both IOPS and latency
    2. You should be realistic about whether the system tested is a good proxy for systems that people actually buy, as opposed to a “benchmark special” that isn’t a typical configuration


What’s behind the performance boost for the new E-Series systems?


Reich: The performance improvements for the new EF560 and EF5600 (which is available in both hybrid and all-disk configurations) are primarily driven by software enhancements to the SANtricity OS. We’re making better use of the multi-core CPUs in the controller and seeing performance gains of up to 55% for some configurations. Existing ESeries customers with a support contract can achieve a boost in the performance of their all-flash and hybrid arrays without even buying a new system.


Of course, the previous all-flash systems were already very fast. For example, RP Data recently deployed EF-Series all-flash arrays and achieved a 70% reduction in database transfer times.


When should a customer consider an E-Series system versus a FAS system running clustered Data ONTAP?


Reich: The E-Series platforms run SAN protocols (with options for Infiniband and SAS interconnects) and are optimized for high IOPs, high throughout, and low latency. Our laser-focus on performance means that we’ve chosen not to add certain data management features that are already available at the application layer. For example, databases are often compressed and deduplicated before they reach the storage system. For that use case, and for many others like it, IT buyers prioritize raw storage performance over data management features.


FAS systems, on the other hand, are often used to consolidate a wide variety of workloads onto a single platform. This is a different use case and requires different capabilities, including multi-protocol support (SAN plus NAS), the ability to scale performance by adding controllers, and a virtualization layer that enables a common suite of data management features whether you choose to deploy a single controller, a local cluster, a MetroCluster, a gateway in front of another storage array, or a cloud instance.


The E-Series systems are SAN-based, yet NetApp is primarily known for NAS and multi-protocol storage systems. What type of success are you having with a SAN offering?


Reich: If you measure success by the number of systems shipped, we are approaching a milestone of one million E-Series SAN systems. If you measure it by growth rate, I can tell you that our E-Series business is larger and growing faster than just about every storage start-up. And if you measure it by the industry standard benchmark for random block-access performance, I am happy to report that we offer the top industry price-performance for all-flash arrays.


The short answer would be – great success so far, with that much more yet to come.


For more information on the benefits of the EF-Series, watch this video featuring RP Data or download the case studies.


Jim Lyons