The A700s Killing it in the Storage Market
On the 31st of Jan NetApp released a new box, the A700s, and it’s a game changer in more ways than you might know. On the same day they also released its SPC-1 benchmark results to show how pearly white its teeth are.
Let’s start with the physical, this All Flash Array is a 4U chassis containing controllers and storage. NetApp has been producing integrated disk and controller systems for many years now but these have always been aimed at the SMB market. The A700s is the first designed with the enterprise market in mind and boy what a first. Housing 24 internal SSDs and expandability up to 216 per HA pair, with the ability to scale out to 12 SAN nodes or 24 NAS. This gives you some serious expandability options.
Each controller has four on-board 40Gbe ports with four PCIe slots for a vast array of additional functionality including more 40Gbe, maybe 32Gb FC or even expanding to my personal favourite, a MetroCluster.
As expected, this system is running the world’s number one branded operating system ONTAP, which provides a unified SAN and NAS architecture to meet the most demanding workloads. Consisting of anything from consolidated virtualisation, enterprise applications to design and engineering workloads, all delivered from a truly scale out architecture, ONTAP can manage up to 24 nodes as a single system with 13 PB of all flash storage.
The SPC-1 benchmark to quote their website – “consists of a single workload designed to demonstrate the performance of a storage subsystem while performing the typical functions of business critical applications. Those applications are characterised by predominately random I/O operations and require both queries as well as update operations. Examples of those types of applications include OLTP, database operations, and mail server implementations.”
This benchmark is a way to allow customers to compare various storage vendors. NetApp previously under took this benchmark back in April 2015 with the FAS8080AE and by way of comparison to how things have changed in just under two years I have put some of the more relevant results into a table. (For more detail see here and check out exec summary)
|Cluster||Nodes||Disks||Rack U||Price–Performance ($/SPC-1 IOPs)||SPC-1 IOPS|
|FAS8080AE||8||768||84||2.77||685,281.71 @ 1.23ms|
|A700s||12||144||26||0.62||2 400 059.26 @ 0.69ms|
As you can see, the FAS8080AE (which was before NetApp were required to adopt Gartner’s naming scheme for it to qualify as an All Flash Array) performed admirably, giving us just over 685,000 IOPS at 1.2 milliseconds. This 8 node cluster was placed fifth in the top ten table, but by the end of 2016 it had slowly been pushed out to 8th which is still very impressive. The most recent results published January 2017 show that the A700S delivered 2.4 million IOPS at roughly 0.7ms in a 12 node cluster.
This huge number not only shows us the improvements in hardware that have occurred over the last couple of years but also the advances that NetApp has made with its ONTAP operating system. Even if you don’t need to scale out to 12 nodes a HA pair can deliver over 400,000 IOPS in under 0.3ms and when you consider you can stack it with 15.3TB SSDs, giving you an effective capacity of a petabyte in a 4U enclosure delivering 650,000 (IOPS) in under a millisecond!
So what do these numbers actually mean? NetApp has reduced the physical capacity down from 2 full racks (84RU) to just over half a rack (26RU) whilst upping the node count by 50%. Yet by doing this they have greatly increased the throughput. So they’ve quartered your rack space requirements, halved the latency and quadrupled the IOPS and this isn’t the box pushed to its max.
What’s in a name?
The S in the name has been said to represent slim but some have said it could well stand for sexy (and what a beast it is), or sport, but unlike a comparison made to hot hatchbacks, I would say this model is more the Aston Martin DB11 Intrepid Sport in Cinnabar Orange. This V12 monster is turning heads everywhere it goes, people are noticing her before they even get the chance to set eyes on her. Dropping into 3rd place in the SPC-1 is no mean feat but to do this with kit that occupies roughly half a rack is phenomenal!
The A700s is not trying to sneak around the corner. No, this AFA has all the capabilities we’ve come to love from ONTAP, whether that be the data efficiencies with dedupe and compaction, SnapMirror, FlexClone, per Volume Encryption, Secure Multi tenancy, can form part of your Data Fabric solution, the list goes on. Remember, this is an OS that keeps going from strength to strength, as we can see from the addition of FlexGroup providing massively scalable next generation data containers (for more information see @NFSDudeAbides post here) and this is hardware that marries the advances in technology beautifully.
All I can say is that if you are in the storage market this will have made you sit up and take note, and if you’re one of the many flash start-ups this has probably got you scared. No matter how you slice it, this box delivers in all respects and is a deadly addition to any environment, just like Old MacHeath’s jack-knife.
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