SUMMARY: Question regarding NetApp vs. direct attached storage

From: Dennis Behrens (
Date: Wed May 10 2000 - 09:56:13 CDT

Out of all the responses that I've received everyone that has a Network
Appliance loves having it around. Very low maintenance, administration and
secure (passes ISS network scans), and very good tech support and
documentation. It does its job very well as a file server (NFS and CIFS
[SMB]), and of course the snap restore feature is a dream considering how
many users love to delete files and want us to magically restore them. It
also frees ya from using Veritas's Volume Manager (Sun's StorEdge Volume
Manager) and the headaches involved with keeping it up to date, patched, and
so on.

The caveats seem to be where Oracle may not be supported, the idea of
running a database or some other application where local storage is
required. Otherwise anything that can be run over NFS works. And the idea
of having system A rely on system B to do its work, i.e. not obeying the
KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle. Also if the network isn't up to
par, they won't perform very well. It also uses NIS and not NIS+, quotas
aren't standard UNIX format.

I have also called Sybase Tech support (since we run Sybase here and not
Oracle) and they will support using a NetApp Filer for hosting the data and
log segments of the database. Any other network attached storage they will
not support. Although understandably very very few of the customers do run
such a configuration. It seems like a comfort thing for the administrator,
but that can't be validated with numbers/benchmarks/real world experience,
since there are so few people doing this. Basically the tech support guy
said if I do this I'd be a pioneer in this area, and Sybase would support me
as much as they can.

I'd like to thank everyone who has sent me input on this matter, it is
definitely helpful.

Wolf <>
Art Man <>
Mark Luntzel <>
Brent Killion <>
Matthew Stier <>
Caleb Warner <>
David Brierley <>
Sean Harding <>
Jeff Kennedy <>
Michael Brock <>
Len Rose <>
Dean Humphery <>
Trevor Paquette <>
Roger Leonard <>

-----Original Message-----
From: Dennis Behrens
Sent: Monday, May 08, 2000 1:37 PM
Subject: RE: Question regarding NetApp vs. direct attached storage

Oops, I should have answered the obvious question. What do I intend to do
with the storage? Well I would like to run CIFS (SMB) mounts for some of
our internal applications. I would also like to put all of my users home
directories on it (from unix), and then use it for my Sybase Database
storage. Amazingly enough it's supported by Sybase, and the NetApp people
swear that it's more reliable and faster than direct attached storage.

Also would getting a bunch of quad-ethernet cards for the NetApp be better
than a gigabit ethernet card? In the end I am considering making a NetApp
cluster here at our primary site, and then a mirrored NetApp at our disaster
recovery site. Is that a good idea, or should we just do what we're doing
now and be tape jockeys?

My main goal is to put our back-end database on a cluster of either E3500's
or E5500's, and be able to have an uptime guarantee. This is definitely a
step up from where my systems currently are at (HP 9000's with a slew of
single points of failure). Of course the biggest factor is the cost. In
the ultimate dream I'd just get a pair of E10k's, and a monster symmetrix.
But that whole reality thing kicks in, and that gets flushed right away.

I would like to thank everyone for their input thus far. Hope this helps in
narrowing down my question.

-----Original Message-----
From: Dennis Behrens []
Sent: Monday, May 08, 2000 10:41 AM
Subject: Question regarding NetApp vs. direct attached storage

I'm in the process of spec'ing out new Sun systems, and I've been running
into several questions/concerns about using a Network Appliance Filer versus
direct attached storage (such as the A5000). I'm trying to find the best
bang for the buck, and of course performance / reliability. I'm trying to
set up a highly available and pretty good performance system.

I'm wondering what my fellow admins think about such a beast, and are there
any pitfalls / gotcha's with either solution. And whether the NetApp is
really as good as it looks and sounds in it's specs. Thus far I've only
seen / heard what the NetApp sales droids are telling me. So of course I
would like to have an opinion / facts from the field.

Of course I'll summarize the input that I receive. Thanks in advance.

Dennis J. Behrens
Operations Analyst
Harbor Capital Advisors, Inc. 

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