A Look At NPS-as-a-Service

by | Jun 8, 2016 | Business Optimization, Cloud, Data Center security

The benefits associated with hyperscalar cloud for devops are compelling. The rapid, automated provisioning available in cloud environments can transform businesses virtually overnight. But in order to get these benefits, we first have to figure out how to get copies of the relevant datasets in the proper place. Copy-on-demand methodologies for any size dataset are simply too slow for an organization focused on devops. So what’s a team to do?
NetApp has previously attempted to solve this challenge with its Cloud ONTAP and its Private Storage solutions. They both offer the ability quickly update data from on-premise storage but cost and complexity have presented challenges for some. But more recently, NetApp teamed up with Faction and unveiled a new offering called NetApp Private Storage as a Service (NPSaaS) that may hold the best answer yet.
NPSaaS Flowchart
NPSaaS delivers all of the benefits of Netapp Private Storage, without most of the work and NONE of the capital expenditures. It’s not elastic per-se, but it can be easily ordered and consumed in 1TB chunks, and is offered in yearly or month-to-month terms. It offers fully secure tenancy with individual Storage Virtual Machines (SVM), and can provide a SnapMirror/SnapVault landing spot for on-prem storage datasets, ready to be cloned and connected to your EC2/Azure compute resources at a moment’s notice. Storage is consumed in chunks of 100mb/s throughput from storage to compute. All network options are on the table of course, you can purchase as much as you’d like, both from storage->compute, and from storage->internet (or MPLS/Point-to-Point drop).
Getting Started
With NPSaaS, there are no additional co-lo contracts, no storage to buy, all you need to do is order your Amazon Direct Connect and VPC, and provide that information to Faction and you’ll be set in a few days to use your first 1TB of storage. Once set up, you’ll be able to use NFS and iSCSI protocols at will. There are currently some limitations that prevent use of CIFS, but future offerings will provide that functionality as well.
Storage Performance & Backup Notes
Currently, FlashPool-accelerated SATA is being used for storage performance. Again, future offerings may provide other options, but not yet. This level of storage performance provides the best $/GB/IOPS bang for the buck for the majority of storage IO needs for this use case; but if you need <1ms multi-100k IOPS here, “standard” NPS is what you’re looking for.
Faction also provides a SnapMirror/SnapVault-based backup into its own NetApp-based cloud environment, at additional charge. Additionally, you could purchase storage in multiple datacenters, SnapMirroring between them for regional redundancy to match the compute redundancy you enjoy from either AWS or Azure.
Items to Keep in Mind

  • This offering is not a virtualized DR platform. You can’t take your VMFS or NFS datastores and replicate them into this storage with the idea of bringing them up in Amazon or Azure.
  • The management of the storage is almost completely performed by Faction on a service-ticket basis. This means (for now) that you won’t be messing with SnapMirror schedules, SnapShots, etc, which does put a little damper on the devops automation for cloning and attaching datasets, for instance. This is expected to be a temporary challenge, however.
  • Faction must carefully manage the ratio of FlexVols and capacity. As a result, you will initially receive one volume, and you can’t get a second until you consume/purchase 5TB for the first one, and so on. So, if you want two volumes of 2TB each, you’ll need purchase 7TB (5TB for #1, and 2TB for #2). However, you can have two 2TB LUNs in one volume – so as long as you design for it from the start, it shouldn’t present much of a constraint.

Drawbacks aside, the NPSaaS consumption model addresses the costs of a 100% utilized/persistent Cloud OnTAP instance, as well as the capital and contractual requirements of Netapp Private Storage. As such, it’s certainly worth a look.
If you have questions about NPSaaS, or any other approach, we’d love to talk with you.  Contact us today.