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NetApp Heads Deeper into the Cloud

It’s also got services to go along with it to guide enterprises in deploying a cloud infrastructure

NetApp's got itself a cloud platform.

It's updated its Data ONTAP 7G operating system, which hasn't been revved since 2005, blended it with Data ONTAP GX scale-out clustering operating system, technology it got with its acquisition of Spinnaker Networks years back, and leavened it with new scaling, performance and cost-saving technologies to create Data ONTAP 8, the foundation of an enterprise cloud infrastructure to enable IT-as-a-service.

It's also got services to go along with it to guide enterprises in deploying a cloud infrastructure.

The company's new CEO Tom Georgens is quoted as saying the announcements "usher in a new era and way of doing business for NetApp" although the company figures it's been in the cloud business for a while.

Enterprise customers, global systems integrators and service providers have been using its existing ONTAP platforms as the foundation for a wide range of internal and external cloud deployments.

Folks like Joyent, Rackspace, Tata Communications, Terremark, BT, France Telecom, AT&T, T-Systems, IBM Hosting and Siemens IT Solutions and Services already leverage NetApp storage for their clouds, infrastructure-as-a-service, software-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service and global hosting widgetry.

ONTAP 8 is supposed to build on that base with enhanced functionality for virtualized and shared infrastructure environments, including non-disruptive data mobility, dynamic growth through a scale-out architecture and 64-bit storage to support multi-petabyte deployments.

It's also supposed to have improved data management capabilities and tighter integration with data center orchestration and management systems, so storage, server, networking and application layers can interface with one another.

NetApp describes the mix of ONTAP 7G and GX into a single code base as a phased approach that will let customers leverage the combined scale-up and scale-out capabilities. It's a step toward NetApp's Unified Storage Architecture, called "critical" in meeting cloud SLAs.

With NetApp's existing MultiStore technology customers can deploy secure multi-tenancy.

And now there's non-disruptive data access during mandatory shutdowns or upgrades as well as role-based data management and monitoring tools to meter use and enable a charge-back model as well as built-in backup/recovery and business continuity capabilities.

NetApp's new Data Motion technology, a factor of the always-on cloud, lets enterprises move data non-disruptively across storage systems with zero application downtime. So customers can eliminate the impact of planned maintenance outages in virtualized multi-tenant environments.

NetApp says Data Motion, which runs on both ONTAP 7 and 8, is the first solution of its kind in the storage industry and builds on its Unified Storage Architecture to enhance availability for both internal and external cloud customers.

The company is promising improved ROI on raw storage purchases and reduced data center space, power and cooling requirements. Cost, it finds, is the primary motive for the shift to the cloud.

It's also come up with a second-generation Performance Acceleration Module (PAM), a family of flash-based caching modules as an alternative to using SSDs in disk shelves.

It says it can cost-effectively improve performance across a broader set of workloads without straining a customer's existing infrastructure.

Tests done with an Online Transaction Processing (OLTP) workload reportedly showed that customers can increase I/O throughput by roughly 78% and response time by roughly 30%. The gains come with less than 1% more power and no additional rack space while saving 39%-55% in cost compared to Fibre Channel by virtue of using fewer disks - complements of 75% fewer spindles - for those adding disks for performance.

PAM II is delivered as cache available in 256GB and 512GB sizes. Up to 4TB can go into a system.

NetApp's Dynamic Data Center (NDDC) solution for delivering IT-as-a-service (ITaaS) involves a service-oriented infrastructure (SOI) that leverages its storage technologies, a service management framework that provides processes and best practices to help manage the infrastructure and reduce fixed costs and a delivery methodology that leverages NetApp's Professional Services and its systems integrator partners to deploy ITaaS infrastructures.

Last but not least NetApp is coming out with a so-called DS4243 disk shelf described as a SAS/SATA disk subsystem that let enterprise customers streamline their data footprint because of its small, dense design (24TB in a 4U or 48ATB max). NetApp says enterprise customers with cloud deployments will be able to use valuable data center resources more efficiently.

ONTAP 8, the Performance Acceleration Module II and the DS4243 disk shelf are due out in September 2009. NetApp Data Motion is scheduled for early 2010.

NetApp will be offering a two- to four-day Fast-Start Customer Workshops to help customers develop a plan to deploy its dynamic data center solution. It says the consulting workshops are designed to quickly evaluate a customer's current business needs, identify the projects necessary to address them, and then help with execution.

VP of solutions marketing Patrick Rogers says, "NetApp believes that because there are several elements that must come together to create a cloud infrastructure, no single vendor is able to adequately address each and every layer."

The company has relationships with vendors such as BMC, Brocade, Cisco, Citrix, CA, Microsoft, SAP, VMware; system integrators Accenture Technology, Avanade, CSC, Fujitsu America and Unisys; and enterprise VARs Avnet Technology Solutions, INX and Long View.

VMware's name on the list - and VMware is key to NetApp - is a tad ironic since NetApp rival EMC, which just beat it out for Data Domain, owns the lion's share of the virtualization leader. NetApp claims to be way ahead of EMC in what it can offer the virtualized cloud. EMC's V-Max has little of NetApp's functionality, it says, and EMC's Atmos widgetry seems to be more prototype than production.

NetApp claims Data Domain would have meant opportunistic, incremental growth, not its whole growth picture.

NetApp means to keep ONTAP 7G around and fix any bugs but not add any new features. It estimates that 20%-30% of its installed base of 100,000 systems will shift to ONTAP 8 in two to three years if for no other reason than it supports bigger disk drives.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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