NetApp founder and Executive Vice-President Dave Hitz and his company are thinking differently about data and how it is managed, because virtualization has completely changed its nature.
That brain work has resulted in what Hitz calls Agile Data Infrastructure, which came out June 20 and serves as the new descriptor for the latest version of the Sunnyvale, Calif., company's Data ONTAP storage software.
"The place where people traditionally did data management is going away," Hitz told eWEEK. "Historically, data management was done as part of the physical server. You'd run your backup system, file system, storage network, RAID and everything else there. These days, with server virtualization, typically the physical server is no longer a real place, and all the applications are running in virtual machines."
Thus, it turns out that a virtual machine is not such a good place to do data management, Hitz said.
"This is because there are so many of them, and a lot of times the individual machines are sharing backend data," Hitz said. "And if you start putting agents into every virtual machine you will end up with a real mess inside the CPU. You get a lot of weird stuff if you do it that way. It's (data management) just not designed to go there."
To this end, NetApp has continued to keep ONTAP, which features new clustering capabilities, on the server and separate from VMs. This is apparently working quite well for a lot of people.
ONTAP is currently the world's No. 1 revenue-earner in the storage architecture market, Hitz said, ranking ahead of three EMC systems (variations of VMAX and VNX). No. 5 is NetApp's own Engenio, which it acquired from LSI in March 2011. EMC is bigger and sells more storage software overall, but when the individual systems are broken out, that's how the market share listing looks.
Key Business-Use Features
ONTAP 8.1, which came out in stealth last October and is available now, includes the following features that all add up to a more agile system, according to NetApp:
Intelligent Data Management: Data storage can be intelligent and self-aware to deliver an immediate response to numerous changing business requirements.
Service Automation and Analytics: Self-managed storage seamlessly scales capacity with end-to-end visibility into storage infrastructure with functions to control, automate, and analyze data.
Virtual Storage Tiering: Always-on application availability requires data-driven real-time responsiveness. Data storage needs to be optimized for agility, low cost and maximum efficiency. A self-managing data-driven service layer allows a mixed-media storage pool to keep "hot" data on flash drives and less-active data on SATA drives. Fully automated with Flash Pools, the intelligence is built into Data ONTAP, making it efficient for multiple and diverse workloads without requiring complex data classification.
Nondisruptive Operations: Zero downtime means that business-critical applications such as Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint and SQL Server, as well as solutions from Oracle, SAP AG and Red Hat, running on VMware vSphere or Citrix XenServer don't go offline for routine upgrades and maintenance, add-ons and even complete hardware refreshes.
Embedded Data Security: Multilevel security prevents unauthorized access to data and helps meet stringent regulatory requirements for data at rest.
Integrated Data Protection: Set it and forget it data protection improves operational efficiency by removing human error and the need for ongoing adjustments to architecture, storage systems and protection policies in order to meet service-level agreements.
Unified Architecture: One architecture for many diverse workloads gives customers the flexibility to deal with changes in storage requirements.
Secure Multi-tenancy: Secure separation of data in cloud environments takes virtualization to the next level, providing a bridge to cloud computing. Close collaboration among NetApp, Cisco and VMware has resulted in a secure multi-tenancy solution to partition shared IT infrastructures from servers to storage.
For remote offices, NetApp offers Data ONTAP Edge, a more basic, lower-cost data storage system that runs in a virtual machine on VMware vSphere and is designed to complement NetApp FAS and V-Series systems, managing the needs of direct-attached storage.
Chris Preimesberger is eWEEK Editor for Features and Analysis. Twitter: @editingwhiz