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NetApp E-Series Flash Storage Arrays Get Performance Boost

NetApp reworks its E-Series flash storage arrays with NVMe, resulting in a significant performance increase.

NetApp has reinvigorated its E-Series hybrid flash storage arrays. The revamped line, called the EF-Series, brings NVMe into the mix. The NVMe protocol typically helps increase throughput, storage security and IOPS while reducing overall latency.

The NetApp E-Series arrays, designed for speed and performance, have been widely used for about two decades. They are typically used in emerging applications such as video production and real-time analytics, as well as backup and recovery and traditional high-performance computing (HPC) applications.

The new EF600 end-to-end NVMe midrange solution is an all-flash version of the E-Series storage devices. It supports the use of NVMe both inside the system and externally via NVMe over Fabrics (NVMe-oF).

NetApp says the NVMe EF600 is the first of its kind and doubles the performance of available all-flash arrays using the SAS protocol. It delivers 2 million sustained IOPS with response times under 100 microseconds and 44GBps of throughput.

And it’s all about performance, said Tim Stammers, senior analyst at 451 Research.

“Alongside the technicalities of its internal design, one reason the E-Series is faster than other storage systems is that it doesn’t provide services such as snapshots and replication. If customers need those services, they rely on third-party applications to provide them,” he explained. “That makes the E-Series a little like a stripped-down racing machine. Eliminating that complexity from the main controllers and IO path of a storage system boosts its performance. “

The EF600 is appropriate for applications that require fast access to data, including machine learning, real-time or fast analytics, and video production.

“Flash has transformed storage performance and rescued it from being the bottleneck that reduced overall application performance,” Stammers said. “But the need for speed never dies in the IT industry, and the growth of data-intensive applications is cranking up the pressure on the storage industry to deliver yet faster systems.”

With this move, NetApp is further solidifying its transition to NVMe. The company supported NVMe early on by adding NVMe-oF support outside of the box to the NetApp E-Series in 2017. And it’s still ahead of the game; other major storage vendors are still in the midst of transitioning from SAS to NVMe, and many of their midrange offerings are still powered by SAS drives.

There are, however, a handful of startups that have developed storage systems designed from scratch to be powered by NVMe drives and can therefore claim very high performance. But unlike the NetApp E-Series, most of those are based on non-commodity, specialist hardware, making them more expensive, Stammers said.

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