Exclusive: NetApp crowns new entry-level storage array king
High-capacity FAS2020 raises bar for manageability, performanceFollow @infoworld
FilerView's GUI is the only one you need to touch to manage the array, paradoxically even if you want to use ONTAP's rich set of CLI commands. In fact, one of the numerous items on the FilerView navigation pane opens command prompt capabilities inside the GUI window.
Unfortunately FilerView's complexity, as well as some duplicated entry points, make the suite intimidating and possibly confusing for the novice admin. However each task, when found, is driven by a friendly step-by-step wizard and, if you're still in doubt, the comprehensive online help comes to the rescue.
Creating an iSCSI test LUN (logical unit number) using the FilerView wizard was quick and easy. More intriguing was connecting that LUN to the application server, which in Windows typically involves logging in to the target using the Microsoft iSCSI initiator software, connecting the LUN while there, then jumping to Windows Disk Management to format the volume and assign a letter. NetApp consolidates all those activities under the single GUI of SnapDrive, an agent that you install on each application server and integrates with the MMC (Microsoft Management Console).
Having just one physical server in my test bed was not suitable to run performance benchmarks, but the array easily withstood my attempts to break it, recovering from a simulated drive failure, from losing one of its iSCSI connections, and from having brutally removed one of its controllers.
Microsoft Exchange is one of the likely applications for this class of machines; hence, because I already had SnapManagerfor Exchange installed, I couldn't resist breaking the application's database and trying to recover from a local copy made with SnapManager.
It took some work to get there, first preparing the target volume for the Exchange database and its log file in FilerView, then instructing SnapManager to start asynchronous mirroring on those target volumes. Opening the MMC on the Exchange server I noticed that SnapDrive, although never touched by the previous tasks, had quietly changed the icon of the e-mail server volume to show that they were mirrored.
Time to disconnect the primary database and restart Exchange from the copy, but first, as a double precaution, I made a backup copy of the Exchange database from SnapManager. According to NetApp, this application uses the Microsoft backup API, which should assure consistency of the e-mail content. Another nice feature: To quickly bring all recovery copies to the same level, you can schedule an automatic update of the mirror copy of the Exchange database with the backup file.
With a double copy of the database as my safety net I felt more comfortable disconnecting the Exchange volumes from the server with SnapDrive. Next, still in SnapDrive, I connected the mirror copy of the Exchange volumes to the e-mail server, but first I had to click past a warning from SnapDrive that I was breaking mirrored copies of the volumes. Going back to SnapManager and running a restore brought the two Exchange volume back.
Because of test bed constraints, I wasn't able to push big performance numbers during my evaluation of the FAS2020, which is a pity: With four connectivity ports, fast SAS drives, and 2GB of cache, the array benchmarks could have shown some interesting results.
Regardless, this new entry in NetApp's tray for SMEs has more than just performance; it offers more management tools and application support than any other arrays in its class. Customers should find the package quite attractive -- as long as budget constraints don't get in the way.