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NetApp Launches New Mid-Tier Storage Arrays

NetApp has updated its FAS3200 platform, offering more computing power and capacity to small and midsize companies.

NetApp announced today that it has upgraded its FAS3200 storage platform. Built for NAS and SAN environments, the FAS3200 series can be customized for virtualized, private cloud, or for traditional, on-premise purposes. The FAS3200 series is suitable for storage needs ranging from a few terabytes to more then 2 petabytes. The storage arrays can be clustered to provide always-on, non-disruptive operation. They employ a flash architecture that the company says facilitates flexible and efficient use of data.

The new products target SMBs and arrive only a few weeks after the company focused on midsize entities with the ExpressPod, a scaled-down version of its FlexPod, co-developed with Cisco, that aims to make enterprise-class capabilities more accessible to smaller organizations.

The FAS3220 offers eight processor cores, double the number of its predecessor, the FAS3210. The company claims the extra computing muscle will boost performance by up to 80% over existing midrange systems. The new product also betters the FAS3210's system memory by 140%, with as much as 24 Gbytes available. Drive slots have received attention, as well; the number has doubled from 240 to 480, meaning that 3-Tbyte configurations can support up to 1.4 petabytes of storage in single rack. The number of PCIe expansion slots, meanwhile, has been increased from four to 12.

The FAS3250, which replaces the FAS3240, is positioned slightly up-market from the 3220. It offers 16 processing cores, twice the number of its predecessor, and 40 Gbytes of system memory, a 150% improvement. NetApp claims the upgrades yield a performance boost of 70% relative to the 3240. Like the FAS3220, the 3250 offers more room for drives; its collection of 720 slots can support up to 2.1 petabytes of storage.

Like all products in the FAS product family, which ranges from the FAS2220 on the low end to the FAS/V6280 on the high end, the new offerings run NetApp's Data ONTAP OS, which allows a FAS infrastructure to scale performance across 24 storage nodes and maintain full operations during otherwise disruptive events, such as maintenance. The company markets the OS--which offers data protection, scalability, thin provisioning, thin clones, backup and disaster recovery--as a simple way of managing shared resources.

NetApp also claims that the platform's storage technology allows companies to reduce disk purchases by up to 50%. In an interview, Nathan Moffitt, the company's director of Storage Platform Marketing, and Raj Das, the director of Product Management for FAS System, emphasized ONTAP's use of flash storage as a differentiating feature. This includes traffic pattern analysis that automates tiering across a pool of SSDs and HDDs, and server-level flash cache to improve I/O.

Das explained that flash at the controller level decreases latency by intelligently caching recently read data while also accelerating the drives behind it. This allows, he said, "hot data that is re-read all the time" to be summoned quickly while "colder data" sits on the HDDs.

In an interview, Gartner research director Gene Ruth said that from "a broad brush perspective, all the major vendors have storage options that introduce SSDs and auto-tiering, or a cache-type capability based on flash, or all-SSD appliances, or cache based on flash that goes inside the server." He said NetApp might offer "some nuances" but that on a practical level, the company's technology falls within "alternative approaches that all the competitors put forward."

For instance, this September Hitachi Data Systems launched its Hitachi Unified Storage VM line, which offers both Flash and HDD and provides a variety of storage virtualization options, including auto-tiering, thin provisioning and replication.

Even so, Ruth added, that NetApp's OS is a point of differentiation in terms of ease of management and upgrade paths. "[There is] no change to the management paradigm; it looks and feels the same" across products, he said, noting this quality "is not true for other competitors."

The FAS3220 and FAS3250 were both made immediately available. NetApp is offering 0% financing until April to customers trading up to the new systems. View Full Bio

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