NetApp NVMe-oF (A250)

Compared to the AFF A200, it offers an increase of 45% for performance with up to 33% more storage efficiency, which was easily demonstrated in our first review of the AFF A250. Our benchmarking results only emphasized this, demonstrating a huge step up from the last-gen model. This certainly isn’t surprising, as several of the NetApp systems we tested in the past took home our editor’s choice award.

Moreover, NetApp is one of the most consistent companies when it comes to replacing their older models for ones that better match the rapidly changing IT landscape. We always look forward to getting one of their new systems in our labs and expect an even better performance profile using NVMe over Fibre Channel (NVMe-oF), which we will be looking at in this review.

NetApp NVMe-oF – AFF A250 Components

In order to hit this new bar in performance, the NetApp equipped the AFF A250 with 24-core CPUs and 128GB of memory per HA Pair, as well as the company’s NS224 storage shelf architecture. Internal storage supports up to 24 NVMe SSDs, though users can set it up with either 8, 12, or 24 drive configurations.

The internal SSDs can reach up to 15.3TB for each configuration or 24 external 30.2TB SSDs per controller. In addition, the A250 is outfitted with two 25Gb Ethernet ports for HA and cluster interconnects, two 10Gbase-T ports for host connectivity, and two mezzanine slots for I/O expansion. The A250 also supports SAS drives, with support of up to 30.6TB for each drive.

For a detailed rundown of its capabilities, potential use cases, and benefits, we encourage you to read our previous NetApp AFF A250 review.

ONTAP 9.9.1

Looking at software, NetApp is now offering the AFF A250 with ONTAP 9.9.1. Our previous review of AFF A250 showcased version 9.8, an update that focused on simplifying the user experience. The newest version focuses on enhancements and additions to the system manager, SAN, data protection and more.

Highlights include:

NetApp AFF A250 and NVMe over Fibre Channel (NVMe-oF)

There is a range of other updates with version 9.9.1; however, the most important one for us (in this review, anyway) is that all SAN Arrays (ASA) can now use NVMe over Fibre Channel (NVMe-oF).

When we previously looked at the NetApp AFF A250, we tested the system using the traditional FC SAN mode with 12x 1.92TB NVMe SSDs (RAID-DP with two 3TB pools of storage). So, for this review, we will be looking at the system in NVMe-oF mode.

NVMe-oF is designed to enhance existing SAN workloads and is certainly the best choice for those looking to truly take advantage of NVMe, especially when it comes to overall performance and application response times.

Launched in 2016, the NVMe-oF protocol specification essentially extends the speedy performance of NVMe from the storage array controllers to the fabric via Ethernet, Fiber Channel, RoCE or InfiniBand. This protocol leverages over fabrics as a transport mapping instead of the PCIe bus without shared memory between endpoints.

NetApp AFF A250 Specifications

Maximum scale-out 2–24 nodes (12 HA pairs)
Maximum SSDs 48
Maximum effective capacity 1.1PB
Per-System Specifications (Active-Active Dual Controller)
Controller form factor 2U
PCIe expansion slots 4
FC target ports (32Gb autoranging) Up to 16
100GbE ports (40GbE autoranging) 4
25GbE ports (10GbE autoranging) Up to 16
10Gbase-T (1GbE autoranging) 4
12Gb/6Gb SAS ports 4
Storage networking supported NVMe/FC, FC, iSCSI, NFS, pNFS, CIFS/SMB, Amazon S3
OS version ONTAP 9.9.1 or later
Shelves and media NS224 (2U; 24 drives, 2.5” SFF NVMe); DS224C (2U; 24 drives, 2.5” SFF); DS2246 (2U; 24 drives, 2.5” SFF)

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