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Efficient Storage: How NetApp Guarantees Storage Efficiency for AFF Systems

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Jon Jacob

With all the vendor hand-waving around efficiency ratios like 5:1, 10:1, even 55:1, how do you cut through the marketing fluff and have confidence you are purchasing the least amount of storage you need?

“Do more with less.”  “Data is growing exponentially, but IT budgets remain flat or are shrinking.”  These seem to be the perpetual mantra for IT organizations.  When you’re evaluating all-flash storage, achieving the lowest TCO is one critical consideration.  That’s why technologies that help you optimize your storage capacity are important.

NetApp has been helping customers buy less storage for over a decade

NetApp was a pioneer of data deduplication for primary storage - we introduced it in ONTAP in 2007.  And we didn’t stop there. In a subsequent release of ONTAP, we added transparent inline data compression.  In ONTAP 9, we added our patented inline compaction technology that packs multiple small files into a physical block of storage. Compaction almost doubles the space savings that NetApp customers see on any compressible workload.  It benefits deployments where customers have millions of small files, such as webhosting, software development repositories, time series data, and large archives of unstructured data. NetApp customers find this combination of data reduction technologies so valuable that we now enable these features by default in our all-flash AFF systems.

Because inline data reduction technologies take place as the data is being written, you might wonder if performance suffers.  It doesn’t. NetApp AFF systems deliver consistent low latency under the most stressful workloads with no degradation even when data reduction technologies are turned on.  You don’t have to trade off performance for space savings.  That’s not necessarily the case with other all-flash arrays.  (In fact, AFF delivers such consistent low latencies we guarantee it.  But that’s a subject for another blog post.)

Efficient storage requires more than deduplication and compression

Data reduction alone does not give you optimal efficiency and lower TCO. That’s why NetApp engineers are continually enhancing ONTAP features that help you get more usable capacity from a given amount of raw physical storage. Advanced drive partitioning, dual – and triple – parity RAID, and thin provisioning give you more data storage space from the raw capacity you deploy. And ONTAP is well-known for the space and performance efficiency of its snapshot technology, including writeable clones that are ideal for Dev/Test. Almost every NetApp customer uses snapshots – and snapshots improve data reduction ratios 10X! Additionally, automated tiering of cold data to the cloud – public or private – with Fabric Pool frees up significant space on your AFF system. All together, these technologies can dramatically reduce the amount of raw storage you need to purchase.

Beware of marketing claims masquerading as guarantees

Marketing claims of data reduction ratios (e.g. 5:1) are meant to get your attention but have little bearing on reality.  Why?  Because the data in your consolidated storage environment can be so diverse.  Databases and text files are highly compressible.  File data in home directories and departmental shares is typically pre-compressed, so data reduction ratios will be low.  VMs and NAS file shares can be deduplicated very effectively. For VDI workloads, customers will see extraordinary data reduction.  Storage vendors know this, that’s why their data reduction ratios are purely marketing fluff.  Ask most vendors to put their claim in writing and your negotiation will begin.

Better effective capacity, most effective guarantee

We’re so confident in the storage efficiency our AFF systems deliver we’ll guarantee in writing 3:1 for mixed workloads. Go ask your current flash vendor to do that.

Obviously getting the most data storage capacity for your budget dollar is only one consideration when you’re making a purchase decision. It’s imperative to thoroughly explore the product’s capabilities and have confidence the system will enable you to not only meet your business requirements today, but in the future as well.  Download a checklist of 7 things to keep in mind when purchasing all-flash storage.

Jon Jacob

Jon is the Senior Product Marketing Manager for NetApp ONTAP data management software. He joined NetApp in 2010 and enjoys leading the cross-team collaboration that’s needed to successfully launch new solutions. Prior to NetApp, Jon had 10+ years of marketing experience at HP in the Business Critical Systems division, including three years based in Germany. Outside of NetApp, when Jon’s not out on a run or bike ride, he enjoys going to San Jose Sharks hockey games.

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