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NetApp FAS – Product Brief

Last updated November 2nd, 2020 for ONTAP 9.8 updates. Concise and unbiased 8-page overview of the features and functionality of NetApp FAS. Product Brief includes EvaluScale Reviewing Methodology. Download the free Product Brief now!


The NetApp Fabric Attached Storage (FAS) series of FAS2700, FAS500f FAS8200, FAS8300, FAS8700, and FAS9000 models support Fibre Channel SAN, FCoE, IP SAN (iSCSI), and network-attached storage (NAS) environments via NFS and CIFS. Previous to the launch of the FAS500f, NetApp had distinguished between its two ONTAP based systems, FAS and AFF, primarily via the storage devices used with AFF models being all flash systems and FAS models being hybrid SSD and HDD systems. The all flash FAS500f system signals a transition to distinguishing the systems on a capacity optimization, in the case of FAS, and performance optimization, in the case of AFF, basis. All Flash FAS (AFF) systems and are covered in a separate Evaluator Group document.

NetApp refers to fabric-attached storage systems as storage connected to hosts via any network. The FAS series is part of NetApp’s strategy to offer a network storage system that is capable of supporting both NAS and storage-area network (SAN) accessibility from a single storage pool.

The embedded operating software is called ONTAP and supports scale-out clustering and advanced feature capabilities. ONTAP 9 replaces the earlier clustered Data ONTAP (cDOT) and 7-mode (non-clustered). A cloud version of ONTAP is also available and is called Cloud ONTAP.

The FAS8000 and FAS9000 systems with the FlexArray feature of ONTAP supports attachment of external storage. The external storage is virtualized by ONTAP enabling the advanced features and a common management for volumes allocated to a NetApp aggregate. The release of the FlexArray feature on the high-end systems replaced the V-series systems for virtualizing external storage.

The FAS500f system differs from other FAS models by using all SSD devices. The system is designed to provide a balance between NetApp’s high capacity FAS offerings and the higher performance AFF. The system uses QLC SSDs to provide high density, while also offering end-to-end NVMe access to provide greater performance than the hybrid models.

NetApp ONTAP has scale out capability to allow systems to be configured to match the environment needs and to increase in both capacity and performance as required. The scale out capability with ONTAP allows scaling to 24 controllers (12 HA pairs) along with the capacity scaling for NAS and 16 (eight HA pairs) for block mode. A dual node NetApp system is called a High Availability pair configuration.

Data reduction in the form of deduplication, compression, and compaction are supported on NetApp systems for primary data. The data reduction is performed inline and NetApp provides a 4:1 reduction guarantee. Compaction is filling the 4K allocation chunks with smaller blocks, which can improve storage utilization, especially with small files.

The FabricPool feature tiers snapshot data not in the active filesystem and inactive blocks from a primary storage system and SnapMirror or SnapVault data from a secondary storage system to either Amazon S3 or StorageGRID WebScale.


The NetApp systems are pervasively used in IT as primary storage, secondary storage, and even for archiving. Both block and file support are in usage but predominantly the NetApp systems are used as NAS for file storage. The systems fit typical IT usages and are found in very wide applicability across vertical markets although not pervasive in high performance or media & entertainment usage.


  • Performance – As standard NAS systems, the NetApp FAS systems have excellent performance for file storage and retrieval for mixed types of files. There are SPEC benchmarks published with details of performance. The block usage also have excellent performance according to the SPC performance benchmarks.
  • External storage attachment with the FAS8000 and FAS9000 systems and the FlexArray feature of Data ONTAP. The FAS2700 systems do not have the FlexArray feature available.
  • Availability – The dual node systems are active-active for availability and the scaling with shared access to the storage arrays provides a high availability solution. Both dual parity (RAID-DP) and triple parity RAID protection is available.
  • Scale out configurations in cluster mode
    • Performance and capacity can be scaled together with the addition of more nodes to the cluster. Scaling with performance and capacity allows customers to maintain performance as capacity demands are being met.
    • Global namespace across all nodes in the cluster simplifies access to files or LUNs contained in the different nodes. Operational tasks and user access is greatly enhanced without having to manage multiple mounts or paths to resolve to the data for access.
    • Non-disruptive operations are possible in cluster mode that either could not be done otherwise or only with manual operations.
      • Load balancing can be done with redistributing active data across different nodes.
      • Capacity balancing can be accomplished transparently to manage new nodes with potentially new technology being added to the system.
      • In addition to adding new nodes to the cluster, nodes may be retired from service with the data transparently migrated to other nodes. Technology updating without service interruption or administrative effort in migration is a key enablement for cluster mode operations.
      • Non-disruptive servicing is available as with the high availability configurations.
    • Existing added value features such as Snapshots work transparently in the cluster environment.
    • Existing interface protocols such as Fibre Channel and iSCSI or NAS protocols operate without change in the cluster environment.
    • A single point of management is used across the cluster, eliminating the individual management tasks for non-cluster environments.
  • Replication for BC/DR – There are multiple replication features for NetApp including incremental Snapshots, asynchronous, and synchronous remote replication providing many choices for customers in meeting BC/DR needs.
  • Notable – The wealth of advanced features is greater than any other individual storage system. These features extend the value of the system providing additional capabilities for companies and their workflows.
  • Applications
    • The NetApp FAS storage systems are targeted at either file-based applications (unstructured data) or block storage usages. As unified storage, both types of usages can be supported at the same time.
    • With both file and block storage support, the NetApp FAS can be used as a consolidation solution across different requirements.
  • System environments
    • With the broad range of file protocols including native CIFS/SMB and NFS for file and Fibre Channel and iSCSI for block storage, the NetApp systems can install in almost any environment.
    • HDFS support for Hadoop environments
  • Deployment and Administration
    • Noted for the ease of use, the NetApp systems can be installed by users with moderate networking and storage skills.
    • NetApp provides resource management software as well as device and feature managers. A CLI is also available for low-level management.

Evaluator Group EvaluScale™: NetApp FAS – SAN Storage

Evaluator Group product review methodology “EvaluScale” assesses each product within a specific technology area.  The definitions of the criteria and explanations of how products are reviewed can be found in the  Evaluator Series Evaluation Guide. Download the product brief now to view the EvaluScale for this product.

Evaluator Group Opinion: Differentiating elements for NetApp FAS

NetApp FAS is a unified SAN and NAS system where block LUNs are mapped to files within the system and written to attached storage devices as blocks. As one of the first truly unified block and file storage systems, NetApp established the market for customers that want to use systems for both types of access. NetApp FAS and AFF systems have the most extensive set of advanced features available for storage with a few exceptions. Currently, tiering to clouds requires AltaVault for snapshots and use of S3 storage as a pool is not generally available. FlexArray allows use of externally attached storage systems but the number of different types of systems that may be attached at one time is limited.

The addition of Flex Groups changes the market opportunity for NetApp FAS and AFF systems with greater capacity scalability and much larger number of files supported. The change also introduces more parallelism in access, increasing performance. The use of common software and features across FAS, AFF, and the software only versions of ONTAP provides leverage in development for NetApp and advantages in operations for customers. NetApp also integrates with other software systems and applications, usually as the first vendor to deliver support. The scale-out capability was long and difficult delivery for NetApp FAS and AFF but does provide the expected advantages for customers. A problem arises in that the number of controllers supported is different between block and file access, requiring additional consideration from customers. Evaluator Group believes the continuing evolution and improvement to the NetApp systems make it a safe choice for customers with great features and performance.

NetApp FAS Product Brief Includes:

EvaluScale Product Review Methodology
Evaluator Group Commentary

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