At first glance, it would be easy to label NetApp as an iron-pumping hardware vendor, given that its meat-and-potatoes products are shiny Filer network-attached-storage units, which can be found in data centers around the world. Looking under that iron, however, we find that the major thing that separates the company from the pack is the software running on these hardware devices.
For example, if you took apart a NetApp Filer and put its innards side by side with a plain-vanilla server from Compaq Computer Corp. or Hewlett-Packard Co., those components, from the Intel Corp. processors down to the network host bus adapters, would be very comparable.
One of the best ways to improve the performance and reliability of a data storage device is to remove the “fat” (unused services and applications). NetApp Filers dont ship with these unnecessary elements, so they are already more reliable and faster out of the box than server systems built on similar hardware.
Even more important than the stripped-down element, however, is the innovative software that Net-App integrates into its hardware. The WAFL, or Write Anywhere File Layout, file system, which stores metadata information with data blocks and allows NetApps hardware to place data anywhere within a disk layout, makes the disk-writing process extremely efficient.
NetApps management software tools, such as Data Fabric Manager, allow IT managers to handle all the NetApp hardware units in their network from a single console and make many day-to-day storage management tasks easier. In addition, these tools help IT managers do trend analysis on data to plan future storage upgrades.