NetApp Revamps Storage Cluster OS In Software-Defined Storage Play

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The latest version of NetApp’s OnTap storage operating system introduces quality of service and moves towards a software-defined data centre

NetApp has delivered a new version of its storage operating system, Clustered Data OnTap, with a view to making storage more reliable and easier to deploy for cloud providers.

Version 8.2 of Clustered Data OnTap adds quality of service support and ups automated service provision. It’s a move towards “software-defined storage”, which would enable flexible cloud data centres. As with previous versions, it clusters storage devices together but doesn’t produce a single clustered file system – something NetApp argues is a benefit when dealing with multiple tenants in a data centre.

Laurence James NetApp

Continuous operations

“There are lots of new functions in this release,” said marketing manager Laurence James. “It fits the move from today where people architect, build and operate, to the future, when organisations will be brokers of services.”

NetApp’s idea is to deliver “software defined storage” as a key part of software-defined data centres, which can operate flexibly. That’s not too different from the aims of rivals HP and IBM, as both are pushing to make data centre resources, including servers, storage and networking, scalable and easy to deploy as a service to multiple customers.

This time around, NetApp has added scalability up to 16 Petabytes of storage, on 24 nodes, supporting vast numbers of volumes, said James. It’s also got better support for continuous operations: it continues working during controller upgrades, and it is possible to schedule planned downtime more intelligently, and handle unplanned downtime better, with features such as load balancing.

Quality of service (QoS) is important, because it allows data centre managers to stop jobs squabbling for storage resources, said James: “Not all workloads are the same; some behave aggressively to other workloads, stealing their resources,” he said. QoS allows the data centre manager to control the consumption of resources by different services, so none of them strangle their weaker brethren. “We are the first to introduce a granular quality of service capability that is designed to manage workload performance.”

OnTap has been criticised because unlike EMC’s Isilon and HP’s Ibrix, it clusters nodes together, but does not aggregate their storage into a single file system. This may be a drawback for a giant user that has one huge application that needs a large amount of space to itself; it would limit the number of large files that application could handle.

However,  the majority of situations either have a service provider supporting multiple customers, or an IT department working with multiple departments, and in these situations separate file systems are actually a benefit, said James. “In a multi-tenant environment, different users are firewalled from one another. This recognises how things will be done in future.”

“With clustered Data ONTAP,NetApp is virtualising the underlying storage infrastructure in such a way as to enable flexible and efficient services-oriented data storage infrastructure,” said analyst Terri McClure, of Enterprise Strategy Group.

OnTap 8.2 supports storage protocols including SMB 3.0, pNFS v4.1, iSCSI, FCoE and Fibre Channel.

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