ONTAP 9.2: More Cloud, Efficiency, Control, and Software-Defined Storage Options for a Data Driven World

On Monday, June 5, NetApp launched the most far-reaching innovation announcement in our 25-year history. At a time when many storage companies are struggling to remain afloat and running out of innovation steam, NetApp at 25 has never been more innovative. We are pivoting to serve the future generation of “data visionaries” with expanded hybrid cloud options, the new NetApp® hyper converged infrastructure (HCI), and much more.


Among all that goodness, the NetApp ONTAP® data management platform had its 25th birthday, and it has never looked better. A friend of mine wrote a great treatise about how the term “legacy” gets misused as an insult by those who are still struggling to succeed. In contrast, for NetApp, 25 years of ONTAP is a track record, showing that year after year our customers vote with their dollars for the feature-rich, efficient, and resilient ONTAP architecture that accelerates their business.


Do you need a quick refresher on everything ONTAP can do for the modern enterprise? Watch the video below. It’ll give you the grand tour!



Innovation Matters

Unlike other architectures that might be content with the status quo, ONTAP is being improved more quickly and more significantly with every release. And it shows.


Figure 1) NetApp Leadership

ONTAP 9 introduced our new development methodology, which allows us to deliver a new major release on a dependable six-month cadence. With the 9.0 and 9.1 releases, we took full advantage of that capability to deliver value-added features to our existing and many new customers. ONTAP became easier to set up and simpler to operate. Our storage efficiencies continued to improve and deliver more capacity out of the same systems at no additional cost. We added granular software-based encryption to protect data at rest with no additional equipment or cost required. We expanded our offerings in data protection, resiliency, and compliance with AltaVault™ cloud backup integration, MetroCluster™ enhancements, and integrated SnapLock® compliance software. All of that in one year.


Our customers, partners, and the industry have taken notice. ONTAP FlexGroup is quickly taking the scale-out NAS world by storm, dethroning Isilon as the “market leader,” according to end users surveyed by IT Brand Pulse. We’ve shipped over 6PB of NVMe, quickly dominating an emerging space, while other companies are still preannouncing nonshipping products. NetApp, yes, that NetApp, is the fastest growing SAN vendor in the market, according to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Enterprise Storage Systems Tracker – 2016Q4, March 2, 2017.


Continuing our winning streak, we again hit that six-month cadence as promised on May 11, when ONTAP 9.2 was released to our customers. I joined the Tech ONTAP podcast to discuss all the great new technology baked into 9.2; have a listen here:



Justin Parisi, one of the masterminds behind the Tech ONTAP podcast, penned a tremendous blog (ONTAP 9.2RC1 is available!) highlighting many of the key features in ONTAP 9.2, including a number of links to associated podcasts and videos. It’s definitely worth the read.


What makes ONTAP 9.2 worthy of being the newest major release in that proud 25-year track record? We really took to heart NetApp’s new #DataDriven focus on enabling data visionaries to take control of their data. That means that ONTAP 9.2 brings more cloud, more efficiency, more control, and more software-defined storage (SDS) options.


More Cloud Options with FabricPool

FabricPool has been a hot topic ever since we showed off the concept at NetApp Insight™ 2016. (Hint: NetApp Insight 2017 is just around the corner, so register now.) In a nutshell, FabricPool is a simple way to leverage the hybrid cloud to place your data where it best belongs. When enabled on an All Flash FAS array powered by ONTAP 9.2, FabricPool automatically moves cold secondary data stored in Snapshot® copies or backup copies out to the cloud using object storage. It’s the best of both worlds: the performance of a resilient, unified, high-performance all-flash array for hot data and the cost-optimized capacity of a private or public cloud object storage repository for cold data.


Figure 2) Tiering Cold Data

In this first release of FabricPool, we support tiering data to Amazon S3 and to NetApp StorageGRID®, our innovative award-winning object storage solution for your private cloud. We also recently announced our intention to integrate FabricPool with Microsoft Azure Blob Storage.


With just a few clicks, our customers can realize up to 40% savings in storage TCO across their entire All Flash FAS (AFF) SAN and NAS environment. That’s one more major thread added to the NetApp Data Fabric, enabling true hybrid cloud capabilities for modern businesses.


More Efficient Storage with Expanded Inline Deduplication

NetApp has spent decades focusing on using the least storage necessary to store the maximum data, with industry-leading storage efficiency techniques minimizing our customers’ data center footprint and their storage spend. When I joined NetApp in 2008, we were just rolling out the industry’s first deduplication for primary SAN and NAS storage, integrated directly into ONTAP at no additional cost. Since then, almost every major release has integrated new efficiency technologies such as compression or compaction or made the existing technologies more efficient or effective, for example, by shifting to inline efficiencies on our All Flash FAS (AFF) systems.


ONTAP 9.2 takes yet another leap forward by expanding the scope of our inline deduplication on our All Flash FAS systems to run across an entire aggregate. Within ONTAP, an aggregate is a collection of one or more RAID groups of drives, upon which we provision volumes for NAS exports/shares and SAN LUNs. With ONTAP 9.2, the individual aggregates on our All Flash FAS systems can now go up to 800TB. That means that inline dedupe now runs across 800TB of raw flash space; at 5:1, that means dedupe is running against 4PB of logical data. Each aggregate in an All Flash FAS system is larger than or comparable to the entire “global” scale-out system offered by many competitors’ AFA. With ONTAP scale-out, an All Flash FAS system can host multiple aggregates, extending out to 7.3PB of raw storage space, equating to well over 20PB logical storage space after basic efficiencies.


Figure 3) Shrink the Storage Footprint

Now, with ONTAP 9.2, inline dedupe can run across hundreds of individual volumes residing on the same aggregate, reclaiming duplicate data, whether that’s database copies, multiple VMware datastores, or any other NAS/SAN mixed workload. Again, it’s a no-additional-cost capability with negligible performance impact that we offer to customers as a nondisruptive software upgrade. This upgrade allows customers to reclaim up to 30% more efficiency on top of and in complement to existing efficiencies, including compression and compaction. Combine this logical efficiency with the extreme density enabled by 15.3TB solid-state disks (SSDs), and you can get upward of 1PB in a single 2RU shelf or 4RU dual-controller All Flash FAS system. That’s industry-leading logical efficiency and physical consolidation, all in one solution.


More Control of Performance for Shared Business-Critical Workloads

Unified shared infrastructure has a universe of benefits: consolidation, efficiency, flexibility, and scalability, just to name a few. The old silos where a business-critical application has its own storage array are quickly disappearing, victims to their own inability to adapt. However, a siloed storage array does have one advantage: There are no other workloads on the array to compete for resources. That’s why, when you’re consolidating storage workloads, it’s so important to place business-critical applications in the right place to meet their performance requirements and then make sure they get the performance they need after they are there.


Figure 4) Simplified Performance Controls for Shared Environments

In ONTAP 9.2, we introduced the concept of application-centric balanced placement for SAN workloads on our All Flash FAS arrays. What does that mean? It means you tell ONTAP that your application needs X number of LUNs of Y size with Z performance, and ONTAP itself identifies the right place within the scale-out cluster based on the available performance headroom to put your LUNs. Plus ONTAP provisions them for you and applies quality of service (QoS) maximums based on your selected service level. It’s automagic and available today for several common workloads as well as a “generic NAS workload” and a “generic SAN workload,” as shown in the System Manager onboard GUI screenshot in Figure 5.


Figure 5) System Manager GUI

With ONTAP 9.2, we also added new QoS minimums, now available for All Flash FAS SAN. The following video shows how these QoS policies are applied to protect business-critical workloads:



The video demo shows how a combination of ONTAP 9.2 QoS minimums and maximums can be used to optimize the performance utilization of a shared efficient SAN/NAS architecture, even when mixing business-critical workloads with “pesky” noisy neighbors such as the preproduction workload highlighted. ONTAP 9.2 makes it possible to modernize your data center while still protecting the applications that drive your business.


More Software-Defined Storage Options with ONTAP Select 

The magic of ONTAP is not just what it enables our customers to do; it’s also how they can do it. ONTAP can run on All Flash FAS systems, hybrid FAS systems, FlexPod®converged infrastructure, and third-party heterogeneous arrays; near the cloud; and directly in the cloud. But one of the most exciting and fastest growing ways to deploy ONTAP is as software-defined storage, directly on commodity servers with DAS, using ONTAP Select.


With ONTAP 9.2, we’ve added new deployment options to spread ONTAP software-defined value to even more use cases, as shown in Figure 6.


Figure 6) New Deployment Options

Prior to ONTAP Select 9.2, we offered a single-node non-HA Select configuration or a four-node highly available configuration. ONTAP Select 9.2 introduces a two-node configuration with a separate HA “mediator” built directly into the same “ONTAP Deploy” virtual appliance used to properly instantiate ONTAP Select instances initially, thus requiring no additional infrastructure or virtual machines.


The other major innovation is support for non-DAS storage with ONTAP Select vNAS. What does that mean? It means that, in general, if you can supply storage to a VMware vSphere environment, then ONTAP Select runs on top of that storage. One use case is an external array connected to vSphere, most commonly when you want to add industry-leading NAS services provided by ONTAP onto a SAN array, hence the “vNAS” moniker. A related use case is for customers using VMware VSAN to take their existing server DAS and turn it into a shared storage environment. In most cases, ONTAP Select on its own or other options such as ONTAP All Flash FAS/FAS or our new NetApp HCI can provide an overall stronger enterprise data management solution than VMware VSAN. However, if a customer determines that VSAN is the right solution for a given workload, we want to support that. Offering ONTAP Select vNAS for VSAN allows you to take advantage of VSAN and ONTAP.


ONTAP 9.2: And So Much More …

Beyond the major improvements highlighted in this blog post, there’s an extensive list of other improvements that our customers expect of a major ONTAP release, some of which are covered in the blog by Justin Parisi. They are all covered in the ONTAP 9.2 release notes and documentation, available to our customers and partners at the NetApp Support site.


ONTAP 9.2 represents yet another significant update that delivers new capabilities to the data visionaries that we’re proud to have as customers … and no surprise, the team is already hard at work continuing to drive major innovation for the next release. Because innovation matters, and NetApp is #DataDriven.


To learn more, visit the ONTAP Data Management Software web page.

Jeff Baxter

Jeff Baxter is Senior Director for Product Management for NetApp ONTAP Scale-Out NAS. In this role, Jeff oversees an elite team of Product Managers and Technical Marketing Engineers working to build and communicate NetApp’s industry-leading approach to scale-out NAS and the broader unstructured data market. Previously, Jeff has held a variety of technical and strategy roles at NetApp, including serving as Chief Evangelist for ONTAP, and Field Chief Technology Officer for the Americas at NetApp.

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