NetApp Insight 2023 – Event Rundown and Tech Updates

Before I start rattling off some tech updates to come out of NetApp Insight 2023 I wanted to start by rambling about the event in general. On the off chance someone who’s actually in charge of the event will swing by here. I know a lot of my colleagues will swing by here, and a lot will be on the same page.

First and foremost, after being remote for several years, Insight back in person was fantastic. I got to meet friends and colleagues I haven’t seen in ages, and meet new folks I would’ve never spoken to otherwise. Everyone was super friendly and curious, which only served to remind me that my fellow Virginians tend to be a bit assholeish.

The venue (MGM Grand) was solid, though I heard some rumblings about the food and the lack of tables to sit, eat, and relax boggles the mind. One shouldn’t have to take lunch while sitting on the floor. At some point I sat in an adirondack chair that must have been meant for a child. I admit I did not to go the off-site dance club thing, for someone who’s not a fan of crowds being at the MGM in the first place was a lot, and going to a loud Vegas DJ is way out of my comfort zone. Instead of bussing everyone to a loud venue every year, why not keep everyone at the same place and do something unique like getting the Foo Fighters in for an acoustic set.

Despite the presenters’ best efforts the crowd at the keynote sessions totally lacked energy (in contrast to the direct engagements I had throughout the show which were energetic). The keynote content itself was fine, but really hit or missed depending on the focused area. Like the opening day’s AI content was interesting and well done, but I’m not sure that it was the right topic of focused conversation for that kind of session. The breakout sessions I went to were great, something echoed back my way several times. Though a common concern that’s also been echoed over the years is the steadily decreasing amount of detailed technical content for the folks who really like getting into the weeds. It’s also a massive shame that the vast majority of NetApp’s in-the-field engineering staff wasn’t allowed to come. Regional, tech focused, mini-Insights when?

Oh, and whomever had the idea to run with collectable pins? Fantastic idea. Okay, yes, I’m a bit bias because I like collecting pins, but I think it was a great idea to get folks to hunt down and visit different areas of the expo floor.

New Announcements from NetApp

Um, to be fair, I do hear bits and pieces of this ahead of time, so I’m not sure how much of this “new” content is really “new.” And part of why Insight isn’t as dramatic as in early years is because releases of new hardware and software functionality are an ever present event. That’s my long-winded way of apologizing when you roll your eyes and go “ugh, I know this already.”

ASA truck is back and it’s better than ever, capacity flash this year, the ASA’s here

Contrary to popular belief the ASA, NetApp’s block only ONTAP architecture centered around symmetric LUN access, is not dead. It’s also been expanded to include capacity (QLC) drives as the “ASA C-Series”. Same models as the existing C-series (250, 400, and 800), the ASA provides symmetric availability for block environments while incorporating the lower price point of capacity SSDs.

ONTAP 9.14.1 Enhancements

  • Volume Level DR Rehearsal: A System Manager based workflow enabling quicker testing of volume failover capabilities. From what I’ve seen it takes a volume, replicates it, then mounts it, all independent of existing SnapMirror and mount path configurations. Appears to be geared toward quick tests centered around network validation (making sure source and target arrays can talk, plus the ability to access data post-failover).
  • System Manager Tagging: If you’ve done any work in the public cloud you’ve probably used metadata tagging to add visibility value. You’ll now be able to do the same in System Manager, but seems to be initially limited to cluster and volumes. When I asked whether that would be integrated with Cloud Insight’s annotation abilities I got the sense that said question was getting tossed around like a hot potato.
  • FabricPool Enhancements: A couple of fun bits in here to further optimize FabricPool tiering operations… Large NFS workloads can bypass the local drive layer and tier out directly akin to the tier all data functionality on a SnapMirror target. ONTAP can also automatically prioritize the FabricPool tiering process when local aggregates start to fill up. Lastly, environments using FabricPool to a local object tier can benefit from a new on-prem mode featuring read ahead caching and prediction.
  • S3 Object Lock Support: Um, what’s another way of saying that ONTAP S3 now has object locking?
  • Consistency Groups Enhancements: Something about consistency groups now replicating both group and individual volume snapshots? Note to self: come back and dive into this once I’ve recovered from conference induced exhaustion

The most interesting thing in ONTAP 9.14.1 is a tech preview (aka you can use it, but it’s not qualified/supported for production environments yet) of SnapMirror Adaptive Sync. Adaptive Sync takes the best of SnapMirror Business Continuity and adds in bi-direcational active-active synchronous replication. It’s a lost like MetroCluster with the ability to use workloads at two sites and leverage a mediator to automatically failover when an issue with one site is encountered. Unlike MetroCluster you can pick and choose what volumes to replicate instead of having to mirror the whole aggregate. Adaptive Sync will also integrate with VMware vMSC and provide locking behind a distributed VMFS datastore.

Cloud Announcements

  • Google joins AWS and Azure in offering first-party NetApp data services in Google Cloud: Google Cloud Volumes is structured a lot like ANF, NAS protocols only, three tiers of service that scale throughput per allocated TiB. Service also includes volume backup and restore capabilities ala FSxN and ANF.
  • VPC Peering between FSxN and VMC (or, to use the official terminology, Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP and VMware Cloud, gotta get that SEO): NetApp sort of buried the lede here as FSxN/VMC integration has always been hindered by a costly transit gateway. VPC peering is big for lowering the TCO of an integrated environment.
  • Cool Access, and other improvements, for Azure NetApp Files: Cool access, best I can tell, is just a fancy way of saying ANF now supports FabricPool to lower TCO. Other tweaks include improved Oracle performance, increased capacity options, and security improvements in US gov regions.

Lastly BlueXP Disaster Recovery is now in public preview. I don’t have much to say about this right now, thinking of diving into this more in the future, but it’s essentially a way to orchestrate disaster recovery between on-prem environments or VMC in AWS. So, NetApp’s version of SRM I guess?

The Sphere

I don’t have any sort of fun conclusion from a NetApp perspective, so instead I’ll throw out some hype regarding The Sphere in Vegas, along with a few words of warning.

Without a doubt the Sphere is a phenomenal experience. The screen size dwarfs IMAX, let along a regular theater screen. Wrapping all the way up is great, but the key visual trick is butting the seats at the edge up against the screen. It really makes you feel as through you’re in the environment rather than just watching something. If you really want a trippy experience find some suite tickets and stand back so you’re looking through the opening of the suite box.

As the movie went on my eyes started to wonder and pick out flaws. This, being the first of its kind at this scale as far as I know, means that none of this is a hard criticism. More the analytical side of my brain breaking loose. There were a few frame rate drops, but otherwise it was super smooth. It wasn’t the highest definition display I’ve seen and there are some areas where there the fidelity seemed lower than prior segments. There were a few dead pixels, and dead patches, which made me grin more than anything. Under the right lighting it seemed like you could see the support structure behind the screen as well (would love a behind-the-scenes tour).

The movie itself, Postcard from Earth by Darren Aronofsky, was pretty bleh from a narrative perspective. Some great natural showcases, that make you revel in the size and scale of the screen, but that’s about it. I kept thinking how awesome it would be to see Dune, or Top Gun, instead.

Showings at The Sphere include both the entry exhibits (manikins demonstrating some tech that is interesting, but not exactly ground breaking) and the show itself. After the show you’re quickly shooed from the building so they can clean and prep for the next batch. It’s not like a traditional movie theater where you can hang out and discuss in the building after leaving the theater. Exit, at least for us, was like a cattle drive through the Venetian’s conference facilities and then popping up in the Venetian proper. Finding your back to your hotel afterward is quite a nightmare if you’re not within reasonable walking distance.

Publication History

  • 10/27/23 – Original Posting