NetApp releases a new AFF and a new FAS(?)

While we ramp up for NetApp INSIGHT next week, (the first virtual edition, for obvious reasons), NetApp has announced a couple of new platforms. First off, the AFF A220, NetApp’s entry-level, expandable AFF is getting a refresh in the AFF A250. While the 250 is a recycled product number, the AFF A250 is a substantial evolution of the original FAS250 from 2004.

The front bezel looks pretty much the same as the A220:

AFF A250 – Front Bezel

Once you remove the bezel, you get a sneak peak of what lies within from those sexy blue drive carriers which indicate NVMe SSDs inside:

AFF A250 – Bezel Removed

While the NVMe SSDs alone are a pretty exciting announcement for this entry-level AFF, once you see the rear, that’s when the possibilities start to come to mind:

AFF A250 – Rear View

Before I address the fact that there’s two slots for expansion cards, let’s go over the internals. Much like its predecessor, each controller contains a 12-core processor. While the A220 contained an Intel Broadwell-DE running at 1.5GHz, the A250 contains an Intel Skylake-D running at 2.2GHz providing roughly a 45% performance increase over the A220, not to mention 32, [*UPDATE: Whoops, this should read 16, the A220 having 8.] third generation PCIe lanes. System memory gets doubled from 64GB to 128GB as does NVRAM, going from 8GB to 16GB. Onboard connectivity consists of two 10GBASE-T (e0a/e0b) ports for 10 gigabit client connectivity with two 25GbE SFP28 ports for ClusterNet/HA connectivity. Since NetApp continues to keep HA off the backplane in newer models, they keep that door open for HA-pairs living in separate chassis, as I waxed about previously here. Both e0M and the BMC continue to share a 1000Mbit, RJ-45 port, and the usual console and USB ports are also included.

Hang on, how do I attach an expansion shelf to this? Well at launch, there will be four different mezzanine cards available to slot into one of the two expansion slots per controller. There will be two host connectivity cards available, one being a 4-port, 10/25Gb, RoCEv2, SFP28 card and the other being a 4-port, 32Gb Fibre Channel card leveraging SFP+. The second type of card available is for storage expansion: one is a 2-port, 100Gb Ethernet, RoCEv2, QSFP28 card for attaching up to one additional NS224 shelf, and the other being a 4-port, 12Gb SAS, mini-SAS HD card for attaching up to one additional DS224c shelf populated with SSDs. That’s right folks, this new platform will only support up to 48 storage devices, though in the AFF world, I don’t see this being a problem. Minimum configuration is 8 NVMe SSDs, max is 48 NVMe SSDs or 24 NVMe + 24 SAS SSDs, but you won’t be able to buy it with SAS SSDs. That compatibility is being included only for migrating off of or reusing an existing DS224x populated with SSDs. If that’s a DS2246, you’ll need to upgrade the IOM modules to 12GB prior to attachment.

Next up in the hardware announcement is the new FAS(?)…but why the question mark you ask? That’s because this “FAS” is all-flash. That’s right, the newest FAS to hit the streets is the FAS 500f. Now before I get into those details, I’d love to get into the speeds and feeds as I did above. The problem is that I would simply be repeating myself. This is the same box as the AFF A250, much like how the AFF A220 is the same box as the FAS27x0. The differences between the AFF 250 and the FAS500f are in the configurations and abilities or restrictions imposed upon it.

While most of the information above can be ⌘-C’d, ⌘-V’d here, this box does not support the connection of any SAS-based media. That fourth mez card I mentioned, the 4-port SAS one? Can’t have it. As for storage device options, much like Henry Ford’s famous quote:

Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.

-Henry Ford

Any customer can have any size NVMe drive they want in the FAS500f, so long as it’s a 15.3TB QLC. That’s right, not only are there no choices to be made here other than drive quantity, but those drives are QLC. On the topic of quantity, the available configurations start at a minimum 24 drives and can be grown to either 36 or 48, but that’s it. So why QLC? By now, you should be aware that the 10k/15k SAS drives we are so used to today for our tier 2 workloads are going away. In fact, the current largest spindle size of 1.8TB is slated to be the last drive size in this category. NetApp’s adoption of QLC media is a direct result of the sunsetting of this line of media. While I don’t expect to get into all of the differences between Single, Multi, Triple, Quad or Penta-level (SLC, MLC, TLC, QLC, or PLC) cell NAND memory in this post, the rule of thumb is the more levels, the lower the speed, reliability, and cost are. QLC is slated to be the replacement for 10k/15k SAS yet it is expected to perform better and only be slightly more expensive. In fact, the FAS500f is expected to be able to do 333,000 IOPS at 3.6ms of latency for 100% 8KB random read workloads or 170,000 IOPS at 2ms for OLTP workloads with a 40/60 r/w split.

Those are this Fall’s new platforms. If you have any questions put it in a comment or tweet at me, @ChrisMaki, I’d love to hear your thoughts on these new platforms. See you next week at INSIGHT 2020, virtual edition!

***UPDATE: After some discussion over on Reddit, it looks like MetroCluster IP will be available on this platform at launch.

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