NetApp’s New ONTAP 9.1 Release Announcement: Get Ready for a Good Change

Sep 27, 2016

NetApp recently announced the introduction of version 9.1 of ONTAP. Among other advancements, it represents the first time ONTAP has had a hardware refresh for the entire platform of engineered systems. The new software version also makes significant advancements from earlier versions.

But let’s start with the really important part of the new release: What’s in it for you?

What Will ONTAP 9.1 Do for You?

First, you’ll see increased performance. The new hardware platforms include support for more CPU cores, more memory, and higher-speed Ethernet and Fibre Channel.

Depending on which system you are comparing, performance increases anywhere from 50% to 200% compared to ONTAP 8.3. You will also see more IOPS at <1ms latency along with more consistent latency.

Second, across the lineup, you will find more flexibility and scalability with NetApp FlexGroup, a scalable large NAS container balanced for performance and capacity.

And third, there have been a number of improvements for protecting data at rest. Encryption capabilities are more expansive, which we’ll dive into shortly.

You’ll Get More Platform Choices, Including a Cloud Option

We mentioned flexibility as one of the key benefits of ONTAP 9.1, and that extends well beyond the new hardware platform. In fact, 9.1 marks the first time the software has been effectively decoupled from the hardware platform to deliver software-defined storage.

That means that you can run it on commodity hardware if you choose to do so, which can significantly reduce TCO. Capacity-based licensing gives you the option of running ONTAP on-premises on NetApp-qualified hardware from major server vendors.

The on-premises setup can work well as the primary storage for Tier 2 and 3 workloads or private cloud storage services.

You can also deploy ONTAP into public clouds such as AWS and Azure. As a high-availability option for cloud replication and disaster recovery, ONTAP in the cloud offers protection against a single Availability Zone failure.

Of course, if you have worked with public cloud before, you know it can sometimes be tricky to get data back out of a public cloud once you have moved it there. NetApp’s data fabric allows you to manage data in public clouds in the same way you would manage data on premises.

For example, it allows you to replicate your data to wherever you want, such as to another public cloud or back to on-premises storage.

NetApp calls the on-premises commodity hardware version of 9.1 “ONTAP Select” and the cloud version “ONTAP Cloud.” Each has its own licensing arrangement.

You’ll Find Increased Scalability Combined with Improved Manageability

Let’s take a closer look at scalability. The key here is NetApps FlexGroup, which allows massive scalability. For example, it supports up to 20 PB in a single namespace with 400 billion files and 200 constituents.

FlexGroup replaces the infinite volumes of earlier ONTAP versions, automatically spreading performance more evenly across the cluster than what infinite volumes allowed in the past.

Still, NetApp makes it surprisingly simple to manage from an administration standpoint, with features such as out-of-the-box provisioning.

The scalability does not incur any penalty in performance. In fact, you will see a 6x performance boost, backed up with inline efficiency guarantees in the All-Flash FAS group. You will also be able to move data with gigabit Ethernet Fibre Channels (NetApp is reportedly first to market with this).

You’ll See Added Protection with Onboard Encryption

ONTAP 9.1’s NetApp Volume Encryption (NVE) protects data at rest with software-based encryption. You can encrypt data selectively without requiring special hardware or licensing using standard SSDs and HDDs.

NVE allows you to implement an XTS-AES-256 data encryption key per volume, yielding unique protection for each volume. Onboard Key Manager (included at no cost) stores the encryption keys.

Supported platforms include the AFF8000 and new AFF platforms as well as the FAS8000, FAS6280/90, and new FAS platforms. You can decrypt, re-key, and encrypt existing volumes via a volume move operation.

Prepare for NextGen Data Centers

We’ll look at just a few highlights of the hardware refresh. The new platform is ready for next-generation data centers with 32 GB Fibre Channel and 40 GB Ethernet networking.

For business-critical workloads, the FAS9000 provides more than 14 PB of capacity, but with simplified serviceability thanks to a modular design. The FAS8200, built for enterprise workloads, offers 5 PB of capacity with support for up to 32 CPU cores.

Small enterprises and mid-sized businesses also have new options with FAS2600 systems. The FAS2650 has 24 internal drives and the FAS2620 has 12. Both deliver 3x the performance of the previous generation.

ONTAP 9 Puts NetApp Squarely in the Role of NAS Leader

That’s a fast take on the new ONTAP 9 lineup. Overall, you’ll see a top-to-bottom hardware refresh, massive scalability, platform mobility, and encryption flexibility. In combination, these go a long way toward strengthening NetApps’ NAS leadership.