NPS-as-a-Service: The perfect middle ground for the DataFabric vision?

red8Everyone pondering the use of hyperscalar cloud for devops deals with one major issue- how do get copies of the appropriate datasets in a place to take advantage of the rapid, automated provisioning available in cloud environments? For datasets of any size, copy-on-demand methodologies are too slow for the expectations set when speaking of devops, which imply a more “point-click-and-provision” capability.

NetApp has previously provided two answers to this problem: Cloud ONTAP and NetApp Private Storage.

Cloud OnTAP represents an on-demand Clustered ONTAP instance within the Amazon EC2/EBS (and now Azure), that you can spin-up and spin-down. This is really handy, but can get expensive if you want the data to be constantly updated with data from on-prem storage, since the cloud instance must always be up and consuming resources. Further, some datasets could have custody requirements that prevent them from physically residing on public cloud infrastructures.

NetApp Private Storage addresses both of these problems. It takes customer purchased NetApp storage that is located at a datacenter physically close to the hyperscaler, and connects that storage at the lowest possible latency to the hyperscaler’s compute layer. The datasets remain on customer-owned equipment, and the benefits of elastic compute can be enjoyed. Of course, the obvious downside to this is the requirement of capital expenditure- the customer must purchase the storage (or at least lease it). Also, the customer must maintain contracts with the co-location site housing the storage, and do all the work to maintain the various connections from the AWS VPC through the Direct Connect, and from the customer datacenter to the co-location site. It’s a lot of moving parts to manage. Further- there’s no way to get started “small”; it’s all or nothing.

But wait! There’s a NEW OFFERING that solves ALL of these problems, and it’s called “NPSaaS”, or NetApp Private Storage as-a-Service.


This offering, currently only available via Faction partners (but keep your eyes on this space) will provide all of the goodness of Netapp Private Storage, without most of the work and NONE of the capital expenditures. It’s not elastic per-se, but it is easily orderable and consumable in 1TB chunks, and in either yearly or month-to-month terms. Each customer gets their own Storage Virtual Machine (SVM), providing completely secure tenancy. It can provide a SnapMirror/SnapVault landing spot for datasets in your on-prem storage, ready to be cloned and connected to your EC2/Azure compute resources at a moment’s notice. You can of course simply provide empty storage at will to your cloud resources for production apps as well.

When you consume storage, you’ll be consuming chunks of 100mb/s throughput from storage to compute as well. You can purchase more throughput to compute if you want- not IOPS. You’ll get 50mb/s internet throughput as well. All network options are on the table of course, you can purchase as much as you’d like, both from storage->compute, and from storage->internet (or MPLS/Point-to-Point drop).

How is this achieved?

Faction has teamed up with NetApp to provide NetApp physical storage resources at the datacenters close to the hyperscalers, ready for use usually within 3-5 days of completion of paperwork, and it will be very simple to order. This means no additional co-lo contracts, no storage to buy, all you need to do is order your Amazon Direct Connect and VPC, and provide that information to Faction and you’ll be set in a few days to use your first 1TB of storage.

Once set up, you’ll be able to use NFS and iSCSI protocols at will. There are currently some limitations that prevent use of CIFS, but future offerings will provide that functionality as well.

From a storage performance perspective, we’re currently looking at FlashPool-accelerated SATA here. Again, future offerings may provide other options here, as well as dedicated hardware should the requirements dictate. But not yet. This level of storage performance provides the best $/GB/IOPS bang for the buck for the majority of storage IO needs for this use case; but if you’re looking for <1ms multi-100k IOPS here, “standard” NPS is what you’re looking for.

Faction also provides a SnapMirror/SnapVault-based backup into their own NetApp-based cloud environment, at additional charge. You could also purchase storage in multiple datacenters, SnapMirroring between them for regional redundancy to match the compute redundancy you enjoy from either AWS or Azure.

Note to remember: This offering is NOT a virtualized DR platform. You can’t take your VMFS or NFS datastores and replicate them into this storage with the idea of bringing them up in Amazon or Azure- that won’t work. So from a replication perspective, this would be more for devops capabilities to provide cloned datasets to your cloud VM’s.

Also, the management of the storage is almost completely performed by Faction on a service-ticket basis. This means (for now) that you won’t be messing with SnapMirror schedules, SnapShots, etc, which does put a little damper on the devops automation for cloning and attaching datasets, for instance. I’m sure this will be temporary as they iron out the wrinkles.

One other thing from a storage/volume provisioning perspective. Since we’re dealing with an on-demand Clustered OnTAP SVM instance here, Faction needs to carefully manage the ratio of FlexVols and capacity as the number of available FlexVols in a given cluster is not infinite. So you will originally get one volume, and you can’t get a second one until you consume/purchase 5TB for the first one, and so on. So if you want two volumes of 2TB each, you’ll need purchase 7TB (5TB for #1, and 2TB for #2). However, no reason you can’t have two 2TB LUNs in one volume- so this isn’t as big a constraint as it may at first seem, you just need to know this up front and design for it.

Drawbacks aside, this consumption model addresses the costs of a 100% utilized/persistent Cloud OnTAP instance, as well as the capital and contractual requirements of Netapp Private Storage. It’s certainly worth a look.

NPS-as-a-Service: The perfect middle ground for the DataFabric vision?

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