Breaking Down NetApp's Approach to Hyper-converged

NetApp has launched the “industry’s first enterprise-scale hyper-converged solution”, NetApp is hoping to usher in a new generation of HCI to the market. This article takes a closer look at how the company, with its long-standing heritage in the storage industry, is going about HCI, paying particular attention to enterprise scalability and cloud integration.

In a bid to unlock the full potential of HCI, NetApp is counting on its proven storage and data management software portfolio, combining the best of NetApp’s technologies to surpass the limitations of “first-generation of HCI solutions”.  NetApp’s all-flash storage platform, SolidFire, and Data Fabric technology are at the core of NetApp HCI. SolidFire's scale-out quality of service technology allows enterprises, mid-sized businesses and service providers to easily consolidate all workloads with guaranteed performance.

By integrating NetApp HCI with and evolving upon their Data Fabric strategy, NetApp’s HCI solution enables data to be seamlessly managed from on-premises to the cloud with enhanced data portability, visibility, and protection. NetApp Data Fabric removes lock-in and provides enterprises with more choices, therefore avoiding the introduction of HCI silos that are becoming increasingly common within today’s data centre due to the limitations of first gen HCI.

NetApp HCI will feature several notable integrations, such as the integration with NetApp's AltaVault archiving system, and with AWS for hybrid cloud connectivity and S3 backup for StorageGrid. It also integrates with partner solutions including those from Commvault, Intel, MongoDB Enterprise, Veeam, and VMware.

NetApp HCI’s integration with Ontap Select, the SDS version of its OnTap storage operating system, opens a new range of deployment possibilities to make it easier for customers to work within remote and branch offices. With NetApp OnDemand, meanwhile, NetApp will introduce its new technology service delivery (Opex pricing) model that lets customers purchase NetApp's all-flash storage arrays and FAS appliances on a monthly subscription basis.

NetApp has designed the NetApp HCI from a data centre perspective. With NetApp HCI, they’re trying to fill a gap that is yet to be filled by current HCI solutions that are limited in application and inflexible – often struggling to allow control of application licensing costs within their small scale, shared everything approach that seriously limits their use in mixed workload environments.

Thus, NetApp’s HCI solution will be delivered in agile, scalable, easy to manage 2U 4-node building blocks. Storage and compute resources are scaled independently, allowing enterprises to avoid costly and inefficient over-provisioning – giving them the flexibility to plan for both capacity and performance according to their needs. The storage and compute nodes will be sold in three different configurations.

Storage Nodes:

·         Type: Small | Medium| Large
·         SSDs: (6) 480GB | (6) 960GB | (6) 1.9TB
·         Effective Block Capacity @ 5x-10x Efficiency: 5.5TB-11TB | 11TB-22TB | 22TB-44TB
·         NVRAM: 8GB
·         Networking: (2) 25/10GbE SFP28 / SFP+, (2) 1GbE RJ45

Compute Nodes:

·         Type: Small | Medium| Large
·         Cores for VMs: 16 | 24 | 36
·         Memory of VMs: 256GB | 512GB | 768GB
·         Networking: (4) 25/10GbE SFP28 / SFP+, (2) 1GbE RJ45 

NetApp has previously held-back from joining the first generation HCI race, aiming instead to leap-frog the competition directly with an Enterprise-ready HCI offering. For that reason, we can expect NetApp HCI to be a strong contender, backed up by NetApp’s robust portfolio of proven hardware and software offerings.

Especially given the rapid revenue growth NetApp has achieved by adapting the mature and trusted ONTAP-driven FAS product line to an all-flash variant (AFF), other leading HCI solution providers are surely taking notice and it will be interesting to see how NetApp’s latest product will disrupt the current market and drive competition.

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