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Dedupe and compression save us significant space; it's so cost-effective we're considering reducing what we charge

  • By SystemsPd6ff
  • on 01/15/2019

We use it for file services, both CIFS and NFS.
How has it helped my organization?
The university didn't have a centralized file service before we moved to NetApp. Now, departments can share information across 24,000 students, across 10,000 faculty and staff. They can share data without doing it through email, which was the old way.
It has definitely helped reduce the overall costs of storage. We actually started out with the IBM M-Series seven years back. We switched to NetApp. The same hardware from NetApp is a better price than it was through IBM, and the support is better. So it has reduced our expenses through that path. And since it's so easily supported, we don't need a lot of people to support it, so our support costs are lower.
We've had a lot of centralization going on. We have 13 schools, each of which had its own IT department. All those IT departments are now out of business because their work has been centralized into our department. Part of that was due to the economy changing and the school changing its business models, but that put our NetApp storage heavily into use. So it's hard to distinguish cause and effect.
I can't specify the amount of space saved, but the deduplication and compression in ONTAP are very effective. We're probably getting 35 - 40 percent savings because of dedupe and compression. And because every volume we put out is a quoted Qtree on a volume, we don't have wasted whitespace. I'm billing for 800 terabytes every single month, that's running on one petabyte of rotating disk. So, it's very good at saving me space. I'm running with about 20 percent available disk, above and beyond what I'm billing. So it's pretty good at that.
We're charging four cents per gigabyte per month and, unfortunately, I'm making money at that rate. We're not allowed to make a profit. I've been looking at reducing what we're charging our customers because it is so cost-effective.
What is most valuable?
The ability for our users to restore data from the Snapshots is very valuable.
What needs improvement?
I would like to see more cloud integration. NetApp had nothing for cloud integration about three or four years back and then, all of a sudden, they got it going and got it going quickly, catching up with the competition. They've done a very good job. NetApp's website has seen phenomenal changes, so I greatly appreciate that.
For how long have I used the solution?
More than five years.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
It's very stable. We've only had two outages with NetApp in seven years. One was a planned outage to fix a problem - that one was seven minutes long. The other was an unplanned failure, which caused us to be down for about five hours. Overall, we're still within our five- and six-nines of availability, so we're happy.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
It's completely scalable, as long as you're willing to buy the hardware. That's why we're looking at cloud for the future, so we can stop buying hardware and maybe use the cloud instead.
How is customer service and technical support?
It's excellent. The technical support has been very good.
One thing I find very annoying is the new web interface, where it takes you through a little AI assistant, a little robot thing, to try to answer your question first. That thing is infuriating because we've already done the research, we know we need support. Fortunately, there's a link so you can get past that quickly.
What I like about NetApp Support is that, generally, the person who takes your case is the one who works it to the end. There aren't a lot of handoffs or a lot of callbacks.
Which solutions did we use previously?
We had always done block storage and we had a large IBM infrastructure, a large ESX infrastructure, physical servers. We knew that we needed a file service, so we set that up. It was really a first for our university. We switched from IBM to NetApp because we thought we'd get better support from NetApp, and we really have. IBM did a good job, but it was obvious that IBM and NetApp didn't always play well together. IBM was slower to put out patches and fixes compared to NetApp. When IBM was telling us to go to the NetApp site to find support, we figured we'd just switch to NetApp.
How was the initial setup?
The initial setup was quite straightforward because we knew what we were going to do with it and we hired Sirius on for a limited part of the job. We did most of it on our own.
What was our ROI?
I know we're providing our service very cost-effectively, and it's selling faster than we expected. Money is coming in faster than we expected and, therefore, I need to drop what I'm charging per gigabyte per month so I don't make a profit, because we're not allowed to. So it's obviously successful.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
Our shortlist was really only NetApp. We looked at about a dozen other products, Hitachi and everything else, but NetApp really had the best product.
What other advice do I have?
Talk to any peer you can find about what products they looked at. We spoke to a dozen peer institutions - universities, colleges - about what they were doing for file services. We found a lot that were failing and a lot that were successful. The successful ones were mostly on NetApp.
It's a very solid product. I've been using if for about seven years, and it's been mostly bulletproof. They have very good support and a very good quality hard drive.
We use it for mission-critical applications but less than we used to. A lot of our mission-critical stuff is now going out to cloud. That's why I'm here at NetApp Insight 2018, to see how we can tie this into the cloud. Absolutely, all of the university's "crown jewels" used to be on NetApp storage. Now, some have gone out to AWS and we're integrating into AWS more and more. For example, Blackboard is no longer running off out NetApp storage. It's now running out of the cloud. The same is true for all the financial stuff, all the Workday and the like. They've moved off of NetApp and out to the cloud.
In terms of machine-learning, AI, real-time analytics, and those kinds of ground-breaking apps for storage, that's more the research support side. We're not doing that. We're doing more of the general file systems support, for general-purpose use.
I don't have any opinion about NVME over Fabrics, I haven't researched it yet.
We bought our equipment through Sirius Computer Solutions, and we're very pleased with that. They care. We've had a couple different senior salespeople with them over the years and they've both been excellent. They're very committed to their customers.


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