SolidFire and NetApp, 10 Months In

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Scott Gelb is a solutions architect at Enterprise Vision Technologies and a NetApp A-Team member.

 

Yes, it really has been over ten months since SolidFire was acquired by NetApp. Since then, this solid-state storage powerhouse has caused quite a synergistic stir at NetApp, in both technology and company culture. If you thought SolidFire would be just another nice addition to NetApp’s growing all-flash portfolio, you’d only be half right. Going on one year as part of the NetApp family, here are some of the reasons why I love SolidFire, and why I think it’s going to continue to make NetApp the best storage partner in the industry. To clarify, I still love ONTAP and SANtricity, but I’m happy to have a new family member in SolidFire.

Bringing SolidFire into the fold

NetApp doesn’t do acquisitions very often, but when it does, it’s for a very strategic reason. Since SolidFire was more present in the service provider, hyperscaler, and cloud space, NetApp rarely ran into them competitively.  SolidFire provides a new opportunity to break down some doors in the industry and in new areas with enterprise customers. NetApp has perfectly set the table with the right product set for many environments, all while partnering closely with cloud vendors.

With this acquisition, you may have noticed that SolidFire is autonomous, but not separated, while being offered as part of the NetApp portfolio. SolidFire fits right into the NetApp Data Fabric with native S3 connectivity and a great roadmap of upcoming new features. I had the opportunity to teach the SolidFire 101 course at NetApp Insight with Kyle Murley from NetApp, and we covered the entire flash portfolio, including E-Series, AFF, and SolidFire.  We had a great discussion about the offerings, where they fit, and the small areas in which they overlap. We also discussed the Data Fabric vision, hybrid cloud, AltaVault, and StorageGRID Webscale. By very clearly defining where SolidFire plays well in customers’ environments, NetApp has simultaneously highlighted the unique value of SolidFire while enhancing its own portfolio.

Not just another all-flash array

At Insight this year, we heard that SolidFire is much more than just another weapon in NetApp’s all-flash arsenal. Of course, most of us who are familiar with SolidFire already knew that. When you start looking at performance, scale-out, and QoS capabilities, you quickly realize that this is not your typical all-flash storage. SolidFire is simple to set up—you just specify how much and how fast. No other storage handles the unique minimum, maximum, and burst QoS all at the same time. Not only can we set a maximum speed limit, but those with a lot of applications can also set a minimum speed limit. Anyone stuck driving in stop-and-go traffic would love to see a minimum speed limit, in addition to a safe maximum, along with some burst in the passing lane.

As far as QoS goes, everyone is still trying to catch up to SolidFire. QoS is really difficult to do, and even harder to do after the fact. To do QoS right, it has to be built from scratch, and that’s exactly what SolidFire has done. When you add in SolidFire’s tight integration with OpenStack, VMware, and containers, the whole QoS discussion gets really exciting. If you’re building a multi-tenant environment on these platforms, and you’re looking for guaranteed performance, SolidFire is the system you need. Additionally worth noting, the NetApp Docker Volume Plugin is integrated across the SolidFire, FAS/AFF, and E-Series portfolio.

SolidFire and the Data Fabric

In addition to adding all of those awesome features, SolidFire effortlessly integrates with the NetApp Data Fabric, and is set to do a whole lot more in the future. SolidFire is already able to connect to the Data Fabric in a variety of ways. You can connect to public, private, and hybrid object stores via integrated object store backup capabilities in SolidFire and Element X. The Data Fabric vision has a lot in store for SolidFire, and you can check out the latest version of the NetApp Data Fabric White Paper to find out more.

As far as what’s on the roadmap, there’s no question that we’re going to see replication from FAS to SolidFire (and vice versa). It’s already coming to AltaVault with ONTAP 9.1, and it’s indicative of NetApp’s larger push to connect all of these products together. With global SnapMirror and SnapVault integration across the portfolio, imagine the benefits you could achieve with SolidFire as a Data Fabric endpoint.

Shaking it up and contributing to NetApp’s success

After observing how SolidFire has interacted with NetApp over the past ten months, anybody who’s been around NetApp for a while can tell that there have been some big changes in both technology and cultural thinking. For one, while NetApp’s long-standing heritage in the storage industry is legendary, the injection of the SolidFire culture is a great addition.

I think about it in terms of “bimodal” IT (via Gartner). It’s not like mode 1 (slower development cycles, traditional IT) is going away, but it’s certainly going to be overrun eventually. SolidFire puts NetApp in a great place to concurrently service mode 1 and mode 2 (faster development speed, rapid growth, and updates), and it’s positioned better than anybody else in the industry with its growing portfolio of solutions.

What are your thoughts on the future of SolidFire as part of the NetApp portfolio? I for one am excited to see what the next year holds, and I can’t wait to see our next glimpse of the future of IT.

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