NetApp aims to marry high performance and high capacity

The storage vendor is focusing on the high-performance, very high capacity cluster market, with Linux a sweet spot
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

Network Appliance launched its Data Ontap GX operating system on Monday, aiming to satisfy users' need for speed in exceptionally high-capacity storage systems.

The system supports multi-gigabit speeds and up to six petabytes (6,000,000 GB) of storage.

The launch of Ontap GX comes two and a half years after NetApp bought Spinnaker Networks, the high-performance storage software specialist, for $300m (£163m).

According to Dave Logan, NetApp's consulting systems engineer, one of the reasons it took some time for NetApp to come out with its own version of Spinnaker's software was that much of it "had to be completely rewritten", and the company wanted "to make sure it was right before we launched it".

Ontap GX aims to offer access to mass storage that can be accessed and moved quickly, and is designed for high performance computing (HPC) environments.

It will be available on NetApp's first genuinely high capacity/high performance storage servers, the FAS6070 and FAS3050, which were launched last month.

According to Logan, one of the fastest growing areas for HPC is the Linux market. "We are seeing so much of it at the moment," Logan told ZDNet UK. "We know Sun are doing a lot, but when you see proprietary systems costing $2m to $3m and you look at the cost difference [with Linux] it is a very compelling story."

One of NetApp's existing customers is the film effects company Industrial Light and Magic, which used NetApp hardware and Linux in the making of Star Wars Episode III.

Patrick Rogers, a vice-president for products and alliances at NetApp, believes that while storage solutions "have constrained HPC customers with large compute clusters", the new software will "unleash the value of their Linux compute clusters, providing the extreme performance they crave".

Logan added that while speed was one thing, customers wanted capacity as well, and said it was not uncommon now to see some companies needing multiple petabytes of storage.

"Yahoo's storage is around 30 petabytes and Oracle uses around three; a petabyte isn't that unsual any more," said Logan.

The Data Ontap GX operating system fits in with the data management features of NetApp's Data Ontap 7G. For now it is only available with NFS, although iSCSI and Fibre Channel are promised for a later date.

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