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Today I am happy to feature a post written my colleague Steve Lusnia.  Steve has been at NetApp a very long time, he's got one of those low employee numbers that we all envy.  Steve is an evangelist for our V-Series controllers, and together we just co-authored a soon-to-be published book "Storage Efficiency for Dummies"


Anyway, I asked Steve to put his thoughts down on paper as to why the V-Series is a great platform for efficiency, so without further ado, here's Steve!


You Got Your Chocolate in my Peanut Butter!


Consumers can win by simply combining two existing technologies.  We all know and love the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup combination of chocolate and peanut butter.  Likewise, you can get more out of your existing storage array by adding NetApp V-Series and taking advantage of NetApp efficiency features.


Throughout the 1980s and 90, most computer storage was Direct Attached Storage (DAS).  The storage was directly attached to servers and all storage was managed separately.  SAN storage using storage arrays was introduced as a way to consolidate DAS and provide common management for systems administrators.  Movement from DAS to SAN storage is the first building block of storage virtualization.


All storage arrays offer data protection using various types of RAID or mirroring protection.  But these arrays are often lacking in virtualization or efficiency features that could improve the overall storage.  One vendor’s technology might fit nicely by adding thin provisioning capability to their existing toolset.  Another vendor might promote their snapshot technology.  But how can you get the most out of virtualization or efficiency features using your existing arrays?


Let’s use an example of replication between arrays. Many IT organizations use arrays from multiple vendors (I.e., EMC and HDS arrays) or different tiers of arrays from a single vendor (I.e., EMC CX and EMC DMX).  There are no native tools for replication between these different tiers of arrays from same vendor or between different array vendors.  Use of third party replication tools are very difficult to use or not even available.


Let's shift gears here and discuss NetApp's solution with FAS controllers.   NetApp FAS controllers are backed by NetApp disks and shelves for storage.  These FAS controllers run Data ONTAP and have many virtualization features including unified storage of both NAS (Network Attached Storage) and SAN (Storage Area Networks) with in the same controller, dedupe, thin provisioning, and many other features.


How do you get these NetApp features deployed in an environment with existing arrays?  NetApp's answer to heterogeneous storage virtualization is to use V-Series.  V-Series is an Open Storage Controller you can use with other vendor’s storage arrays.  In the drawing below, you see a mix of NetApp FAS with NetApp storage, V-Series with 3rd party "partner" storage arrays, and traditional SAN hosts.  The FAS and V-Series both can present storage out to NAS and SAN environments.  Tools such as replication work seamlessly between the FAS and V-Series controllers.  So you get to use the NetApp virtualization features while keeping your existing storage arrays.

How is a V-Series different than a FAS controller?  The FAS and V-Series products use the same physical controller hardware and run the same Data ONTAP software.  V-Series just allows you to use your arrays.  So the features and functions of FAS and V-Series are identical.


The logical view below denotes how to use other vendors’ storage with V-Series.  The difference in heterogeneous storage and NetApp storage is how we make the aggregate.  An  aggregate is a large storage container of same type of disks or of same type of array LUNs. Since the array is already running some form of RAID protection, V-Series uses a simple RAID-0 stripe on the storage LUNs.  Conversely, a FAS system uses NetApp protection of RAID-DP on the actual hard disks that exist within a FAS system.

Now, lets focus on the storage efficiency features.  As you can see from the logical view above, most storage efficiency features happen in the Aggregate, FlexVol, or LUN.  The ‘LUN’ in this case is the front-end LUN presented to the host.  Not to be confused with a V-Series back-end LUN which is RAID protected storage used behind V-Series.  These efficiency features include data deduplication, thin provisioning, cloning, snapshots, mirroring and vaulting.  Using NetApp disks also includes the benefit of using NetApp RAID-DP for dual parity protection. 


So why would someone want to use V-Series with their arrays?  The ONTAP features enhance potential feature gaps in the array.  Further, NetApp brings these features but allows you to continue using your existing storage arrays.  Stated simply, most use cases utilizing NetApp storage virtualization are targeted at improving overall storage efficiency.  What is also unique to NetApp is that all these features are available in the same storage controller and apply to both SAN and NAS based access.


There are many use cases, but the most common are:


• Storage Efficiency: Huge storage savings are possible with NetApp efficiency tools.  Deduplication and cloning, for instance,  improve the operational efficiency and storage efficiency over a typical storage array.


• Disaster Recovery: Replication features like thin replication and vaulting are possible between different vendor arrays or even different class of arrays from same vendor.  Just use V-Series as the storage controller and you can use NetApp replication tools.


• Backup/Restore:  NetApp backup/restore tools are built on our snapshot technology.  Our Write Anywhere File Layout (WAFL) provides the most efficient type of snapshot.  Other vendors use an inefficient -  copy on write (COW) -  snapshot where the array actually moves data between block when taking a snapshot or when doing a restore of your data.  Using snapshot, SnapRestore and vaulting greatly improves both operational costs and storage costs.


• NAS Gateway:  Storage arrays are SAN or block-based arrays.  To use these arrays in a NAS environment, you need a gateway.  Any PC could be a gateway, a very inefficient and featureless gateway, but in theory a PC is a gateway.  A better approach is V-Series gateway so you can leverage all the efficiency features.


The wide V-Series support matrix means these efficiency features can be used in many environments.  V-Series support matrix covers over 90% of the arrays deployed today.  As you may have guessed, we have a rather large investment in heterogeneous storage arrays in our V-Series Qualification lab.


V-Series is investment protection that lets you get more out of your existing storage arrays by using NetApp efficiency features.






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