The NetApp Fabric Attached Storage (FAS) series of FAS2700, FAS8200, and FAS9000 models support Fibre Channel SAN, FCoE, IP SAN (iSCSI), and network-attached storage (NAS) environments via NFS and CIFS. All SSD versions using the same ONTAP software are offered as 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 support 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.
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 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.
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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.