Single wire and single OS: yet another way to tell true unified storage from the rest

This is going to be a mercifully short entry. I’m saving the big one for another day 🙂

One of the features of NetApp storage is that by using Converged Network Adapters (CNAs) one can use a single wire and transport over that FC, iSCSI, NFS and CIFS, at the same time.

You see, since NetApp storage is truly unified, we don’t need cables coming out of 5 different boxes running 3 or more different OSes to do something (which is what, say, a certain competitor’s “unified” box is like – actually it’s even more boxes if one counts the external replication devices).

You might say “OK, that’s cool but how does it affect my bottom line?”

Just a few benefits that immediately come to mind:

  1. Far less cables to run in your datacenter for both storage and all the servers (each server needs 2 cables for redundancy vs 4 or more)
  2. No compromises since there’s no need to be forced to choose between iSCSI, NAS and FC – each server can happily use whatever’s best for the task at hand yet retain the exact same connectivity
  3. Less switches (no need for both FC and Ethernet switches)
  4. Less OpEx since it’s a simpler solution to manage
  5. Very high speeds (each link is 10Gbit) and low latency (FCoE is similar to FC – no need to do iSCSI if the same link can do both)
  6. Overall a far simpler and cleaner Datacenter

The other part is also important: Single OS. Inherently, something running a single OS has 3x less moving parts than something running 3 totally different OSes, regardless of packaging.

Here are some cool throughput results. Line speeds 🙂

One can dance around such concepts with marchitecture and fancy Powerpoint slides, but, in the end, just use your head. It’s pretty simple.

Food for thought…


8 Replies to “Single wire and single OS: yet another way to tell true unified storage from the rest”

  1. I agree the CNA is very cool but ran across one FCoE detail the other day I found very interesting — in short, FCoE runs at 4 GB FC speeds and is then encapsulated. That does leave a nice amount of bandwidth for other protocols on a 10 GigE pipe but does mean it’s noticeably lower throughput potential than 8 Gig FC (whether that’s a practical issue or not is open to debate/each customer environment of course).

    Any thoughts or clarification along those lines?

    Full disclosure: I work for an EMC partner but have a good bit of NetApp storage background too (i.e. current NCDA/NCIE).

  2. Hi Andrew,

    Maybe you’re referring to some other kind of adapter because the FCoE adapters in the NetApp systems can leave well over 8Gbit for the FC traffic. Definitely more bandwidth than 8Gbit FC.

    Not sure what EMC uses.


  3. D,

    Not sure what your field penetration rate is with FCoE vs. 10gbe but for me it is a considerable margin with 10gbe. We talk about FCoE and customers like the idea and that surely is the future but not a considerable amount of takers because it is disruptive. Can’t leverage existing infrastructure and requires CEE. Curious how you see it? Could be the GEO I cover as well. Few takers where it makes sense.

    I wanted to make sure the air was cleared and transparency was vetted out. NetApp is Unified on the HW layer BUT not on the software layer including ONTap so quit saying “completely unified”. You know this too. You have OnTap 7, ONTap 8, and now bycast. Three separate code bases. Eventually you will have two as NetApp is still trying to figure out where bycast will fit it. I heard a lot of folks internal were not happy with bycast acquisition to strengthen your cloud story? What is that story?

  4. Hi Aaron,

    Unsure what you mean.

    We support fully unified connect with the new rev of the OS. The old rev is still provided just like most companies do.

    And to re-iterate: despite recent posturing by certain vendors, as of this writing NetApp remains the ONLY vendor to offer fully unified connect. Not just FCoE but all protocols through one wire. Until you guys collapse your layers you won’t be able to do that. I’m sure someone from EMC would take the usual approach “but customers don’t care”. Just because you can’t do something doesn’t mean it’s not a valid approach.

    And customers DO care to simplify their wiring and minimize the number of HBAs in a server.

    We just happen to be leading the pack, that’s all.

    Oh, and one can buy the unified connect adapters and use them as straight 10GbE, and if they want to go FCoE in the future they’re covered. Why force the customer into a corner?

    I’ve sold multiple unified connect solutions, and as customer FC and network switches age, they see the benefit of doing this more and more.

    It’s the natural evolution of things.

    Bycast/storagegrid is an application and not an array OS. The product is going strong.


  5. D,

    It was the heading that I felt was misleading specifically. “single wire and SINGLE OS”. Perhaps you are foreshadowing but ONTAP is NOT Unified today. That was my main reason for the post. No disputing the Unified HW but you are always quick to correct other players in this space when incorrect references are made (as you should).

    Yes, I made a reference around code base/OS with bycast and should have been more careful there. I am aware bycast is leveraged as a gateway (VM’s ). I know in talking with some newly parted that many of the resources internal at NetApp were not happy about this acquisition as the future of NetApp’s cloud strategy.

    NetApp has done some good things so we shall she if this predominantly healthcare focused solution, broadens itself in the market place.

    Btw, have some goulash lined up for tomorrow. You are rubbing off on me 🙂

    Have a good weekend brother….

    1. For people using ONTAP 8.01 7-mode, they’re using a single OS on a single device and can use a single wire to transfer all protocols, so the description is quite accurate.

      On older ONTAP this doesn’t work, just like FAST Cache doesn’t work pre-FLARE 29.

      Cluster-mode doesn’t do FC (yet) so if you use that mode you won’t be able to use all protocols. Everyone is well aware of that. Most people use 7-mode anyway.

      BTW – If we’re gonna talk about what the “newly parted” have to say about the place they’re departing from, let’s just say things will be – colored.

      NetApp is consistently in the top 10 places to work, and EMC doesn’t break the top 100, so let’s just say you have some work to do there.

      Which brings us a bit off-topic of course. But maybe not.

      I won’t take the bait WRT cloud strategy, if it makes you comfortable to believe what you know, go for it.

      Enjoy that goulash!


  6. D,

    Appreciate the response and after our couple rounds in the cage match, we came to the conclusion that “OnTAP” is not Unified. It is not Unified because you have to make choices depending upon which mode you run in and if you have any intentions of scaling out, well, there is another choice for you. So, the “Unified” comment is a little misleading Dimitris. As you spell it out, it doesn’t seem very unified between the modes. Yes, if you are running 7mode, I get it… We all get it…. Then you can say Unified and Single wire. Kuddos.. BUT… you don’t have just one OS to worry about. I would imagine you have tons of customers running C-mode (at least that is what a NetApp SE told one of my customers). If that is the case, well then this doesn’t apply and you have misrepresented a portion of your customers.

    Regarding the “parted”, actually it is very accurate because we are confirming from a large partner of yours :). This bycast and flexpod stuff is kind of like the wizard behind the curtain (talk about great marketing, NetApp has been hard at work putting lipstick on the pig). I look forward to your posting about both. Hopefully you won’t reference marchitecture because anyone can put a reference architecture together.

    On another note with the “parted”, I will send you an email offline but you should read some of the FUD that was laid out in several of my campaigns from NetApp. I know it happens everywhere but I think you stated it happens more with EMC?? Boy do I have an email for you. Oh, and this person stated the customer was getting a Flexpod (Ex-EMC too). Perhaps I should send you the BOM which further validates why we dispute NetApp’s position about Flexpods. Again, waiting for this post…..

    If you remember in our previous banter sessions, I already gave you mad props for Top 10 best places to work. I even mentioned that I thought it was Top 5. Let me congratulate you guys again? Congratulations…. I guess like any company there are pockets of good and bad. I personally love it here and have been very successful. We have work to do no doubt… I see progress everyday. Why? Because I am part of that change..

    Not challenging you on single connect in 7Mode boss. Challenging you on the “Single OS” reference.

    Have a good night…..

    1. Hi Aaron,

      Interesting, EMC launched an entire series as “unified” yet that series (VNX, AKA NS in the past) runs on 4 different OSes with different capabilities and purposes per (FLARE on Windows for the CX SPs, DART for the NAS Data Movers, Linux for the Control Station and the new VNXe OS based on Linux and running FLARE and DART as processes but they are not the same FLARE and DART as the bigger brother is running). So, EMC’s “unified” line is not unified with respect to software OR hardware. Yet sold as such. See my other post that caused much heartburn:

      Then you have Centera, V-Max, Data Domain, Atmos, Recoverpoint, Isilon etc. etc. All totally different codebases and utterly incompatible with each other.

      NetApp has just 1 OS with 2 modes of operation that can work on all our FAS gear. You lose FC in the scale-out c-mode (Edit: as of ONTAP 8.1, you have all the protocols in both modes). Yet WE are not unified???

      Maybe you’d like the title to be “Single Wire and Single OS when running ONTAP 8.01 7-mode and not some other rev not supporting single wire”? 🙂


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