Sign in to my dashboard Create an account

NetApp HCI or SolidFire: Which One Is Right for You?

Kendall Carroll

Which technology is right for your organization as you move to the hybrid multi cloud experience, NetApp® HCI or the NetApp SolidFire® scale-out storage system? Do you need simple turnkey infrastructure or support for large-scale workloads? To help you make the right choice, here we compare and contrast the two solutions.

With NetApp HCI enterprise-scale all-flash hybrid cloud infrastructure, you get predictable performance on a highly flexible, efficient architecture that’s simple to deploy and to manage.

With the NetApp SolidFire all-flash storage system, you get independent scaling, workload protection, and automation integration for your cloud infrastructure at industry-leading scale.

Why do you need either solution? Because technology leaders like you constantly need to leverage the agility, scale, and services of public clouds from on-premises environments. So, at NetApp, our portfolio of solutions is making it easier for you to access your data across clouds. You get a hybrid multi cloud experience that’s based on frictionless consumption, self-service, automation, programmable APIs, and IT infrastructure independence.

NetApp HCI and NetApp SolidFire both bring together the best of the public cloud and the private cloud so that you get a seamless user experience. Both are built on NetApp Element® software, and because both are part of the NetApp Data Fabric, you can realize the full potential of your data. Whether it’s on the premises or in a public or hybrid cloud, you can move and use your data where you need it most.

A Hybrid Multi Cloud Experience with Element Software

Both NetApp HCI and SolidFire systems are powered by NetApp Element software. Element software makes your system agile through scale-out flexibility, and it provides predictable performance and automation integration so that you can build clouds to accelerate new services.

Seamless scaling

With Element software, you can dynamically scale storage resources to meet ever-shifting, unpredictable business and application demands. You get nondisruptive system expansion with instant resource availability. Because your cloud infrastructure can grow independently with these resource demands, Element software helps you eliminate multiyear capacity and performance planning cycles.

Seamless scaling is important because your cloud starts with today’s requirements and expands with your platform over time. With Element software, when you add a node to your infrastructure, it increases performance and capacity to a usable pool. You have nothing to migrate, no interruptions, and no settings to change. And with the scale-out architecture, there’s plenty of horsepower to reduce and to recirculate data, regardless of the performance and capacity demands on your system.

These realized efficiencies mean that both solutions scale incrementally and are designed as pay-as-you-grow cost models—reducing your large initial capital expenditures. With either NetApp HCI or a SolidFire system, you can expand your storage capacity on your terms without increasing your footprint.

Protected workloads

Through Element quality-of-service (QoS) settings, you get protection for consolidated applications and workloads on either NetApp HCI or a SolidFire system. Each solution gives you guaranteed performance on a shared system, so you can consolidate many applications on your system rather than using it for single workloads and creating silos. And whether you choose NetApp HCI or SolidFire, Element software provides mature data services and integration capabilities such as integrated replication, data protection, data reduction, and high-availability services.

Automated simplicity

Especially in large storage deployments, automation is the key to operational efficiency. By automating complex storage management tasks, by orchestrating workflows, and by delivering deep management integration, Element can efficiently satisfy your service delivery needs and let you focus on driving your business forward. Element management frameworks give you both an intuitive web-based UI and a robust REST-based API to automate every aspect of your storage provisioning, management, and reporting.

As part of driving your business forward, deep integration with industry-leading virtualization and cloud platforms helps minimize your development time and overhead, so you can develop more complete and agile solutions. If you have a VMware environment, Element software integrates seamlessly into vStorage APIs - Array Integration (VAAI), vSphere API for Storage Awareness (VASA), Virtual Volumes (VVols), and vRealize. You also get simple centralized management through a vCenter plug-in that gives you full visibility and control over your entire infrastructure.

The Unique Benefits of NetApp HCI and SolidFire Cloud Infrastructures

NetApp HCI

If you want a simple turnkey cloud infrastructure that eliminates the complex management of traditional three-tier architectures, NetApp HCI is just what you need. You can deploy it in just 45 minutes! This solution is designed for simplicity, so you don’t have to follow any complex manual steps in deployment. And because NetApp HCI is designed to be administered by your virtualization or cloud administrator, you don’t need team members with specialized hardware skills in storage, compute, or networking.

NetApp HCI also makes it easy for you to meet your needs for increased workload density and the deployment of mission-critical enterprise business applications. Because this solution is based on VMware virtualization, you benefit from decades of virtualization innovation and get enterprise-hardened features. With just push-button deployment, your system can deliver a VMware Private Cloud experience. You can easily consolidate mixed end-user computing workloads on a single NetApp HCI system.

By using automation and orchestration tools, such as VMware vRealize Suite, your IT organization can deliver a catalog-based model for users to choose what resources they need. With these tools, your IT team can give users an as-a-service experience that’s just like the way that users order compute and storage through a public cloud.

NetApp HCI also gives you the flexibility of scaling compute or storage nodes independently, with simplified choices of small, medium, or large nodes. You can therefore decouple compute and storage capacity scaling. This granular level of scaling helps you prevent the overprovisioning of resources that’s common in systems that scale linearly instead of independently.

Along with scalability, you need agility to meet growing customer demands and requests for new features. For increased agility, enterprises like yours are adopting DevOps methodologies. And with NetApp HCI and Red Hat, you get a turnkey platform for running DevOps workloads reliably. Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform provides enterprise Kubernetes bundled continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines, automated builds, and automated deployment. So, your developers can focus on application logic while leveraging all best-in-class enterprise infrastructure.


Designed for diverse, rapidly changing, unpredictable workloads at scale, NetApp SolidFire easily supports revenue-generating applications. SolidFire scale-out storage simplifies how you grow your infrastructure, eliminating the pain and headaches of forklift upgrades. With the ability to mix nodes in a cluster, you can incrementally scale for performance or for capacity when your business demands it—no resource planning or downtime required.

To simplify your block storage integration and automation, Element API functionality on SolidFire has been integrated with the OpenStack, CloudStack, Flexiant, and OnApp frameworks. You choose the different technologies that you need to build your unique data center.

Another benefit that you get with SolidFire is capacity licensing. With this pricing model, you purchase data storage based on how much capacity is provisioned on your storage infrastructure. You get the cost and flexibility benefits of software-only storage without the supply chain, system integration, and support complexity that are normally associated with this approach.

By decoupling market-leading software from the underlying hardware, NetApp offers a modern purchasing model that better aligns with how storage is bought and consumed today. If you’re a large-scale customer with hundreds of terabytes to petabytes of data, you can realize a return on investment much faster with capacity licensing than with traditional purchasing.

And with capacity licensing, you can realize economic benefits across your entire data center footprint to better align with your ever-changing needs. The Element capacity licensing model gives you the flexibility, efficiency, and predictability that you can’t get through traditional storage purchasing. These purchasing benefits transfer to your business overall, especially to your bottom line with large-scale growth.

The Bridge Between Clouds

The hybrid multi cloud experience is the future for IT organizations like yours. And with the Data Fabric, NetApp HCI and SolidFire provide the path for your enterprise to deliver the frictionless consumption that your customers want.

NetApp SolidFire storage and NetApp HCI offer many of the same user benefits because both are powered by Element software. With either solution, you get optimal scalability, predictability, and automation. To meet the needs of your enterprise, SolidFire and NetApp HCI consolidate workloads, removing traditional IT silos. And if you want to improve the flexibility of your business, both solutions offer scalable options.

Although they’re similar, these two products have unique features. With NetApp HCI, you get a turnkey, VMware- and Red Hat–compatible solution that combines compute and storage into one customizable system. As a result, it’s incredibly easy for you to deploy your system. And NetApp HCI is designed so that your virtualization team and cloud architects can set it up, minimizing the need for traditional IT staff.

SolidFire is an all flash-system that’s optimal for your revenue-generating workloads. By being compatible with a wide range of technologies, SolidFire is a great option if your enterprise wants to customize its large-scale data center. And the benefits of SolidFire capacity licensing enhance the flexibility of your business and improve your bottom line.

So, now that you know the basic differences, which solution is right for your organization as you head toward the hybrid multi cloud experience? Get started today. Visit our NetApp HCI and SolidFire pages to start optimizing your system and the user experience that you provide.

Kendall Carroll

Kendall is a Product Marketing Manager at NetApp. A theatre teacher turned MBA, Kendall gets to combine her passion for storytelling and business acumen in her marketing role. Find Kendall exploring Colorado with her family or cooking her way through Mary Berry's Baking Bible.

View all Posts by Kendall Carroll

Next Steps

Drift chat loading