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NetApp Freshens What's OnTap

Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) has polished up its 10-year-old Data OnTap, the operating system that ships with all of its NAS filers. Among the additions are improved provisioning, enhanced snapshots, and wider hardware support (see NetApp Enhances Data OnTap).

But the new additions point to a key feature still missing.

Let's start at the top. NetApp's touting two key features for its OS, both available today:

  • FlexVol creates volumes across more than one spindle on a filer by using thin provisioning, a process whereby users create virtual volumes on a system even if the space is not physically available. Thin provisioning was first released by SAN startup 3PAR Inc. (see 3PAR Debuts 'Thin Provisioning' and Zetta Systems Updates Software).
  • FlexClone creates a writeable version of snapshots, or views of stored data at a given point in time. Previously, NetApps snapshots were read-only.

FlexVol is built into Data OnTap, and FlexClone is licensed separately, with pricing starting at $6,000.

One analyst says the value of the new features depends on whether NetApp makes good on its claim that they won’t require additional computing resources. “The key here is they’re providing more layers of abstraction, but what will be the performance overhead?” Taneja Group senior analyst Alex Garbansky asks. “They say it will be negligible, but that needs to be tested.”

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