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NetApp Updates Storage Portfolio with a Focus on AI

NetApp Updates Storage Portfolio with a Focus on AI

The News: NetApp has announced a significant update to its storage portfolio with a focus on new offerings for tier 1 workloads and a focus on artificial intelligence (AI). Included in the update are three new models in NetApp’s AFF A series, updates to NetApp ONTAP, and new AI-specific reference architectures. Read more on the NetApp website.

NetApp Updates Storage Portfolio with a Focus on AI

Analyst Take: NetApp’s latest announcement introduced an array of new updates to its overall storage portfolio and strategy. Core to the announcement was updates to NetApp’s primary storage offerings and its focus on providing AI infrastructure. NetApp additionally made several data protection and cyber-resiliency focused announcements that are detailed in a separate Research Note from The Futurum Group.

Updates to NetApp’s primary storage portfolio include new models in the AFF A Series, including new AFF A70, AFF A90, and AFF A1K. Over the past few years, NetApp has been updating and expanding its AFF product line to include a wide range of models that can address various workload requirements. Previous announcements have included updates for the AFF C series, which provides QLC based capacity optimized systems, and AFF ASA series which provides block storage optimized systems. Meanwhile the AFF A series has offered unified storage for tier 1 workloads. The new models refresh the high-end AFF A series lineup and offer increased performance and density. NetApp claims that the new systems can achieve up to 2X performance compared with previous A Series models with up to 40M IOPs and 1TB/s throughput, and up to 35% lower cost per TB of effective capacity. A brief overview of the systems is as follows:

AFF A70

AFF A90

AFF A1K

Form Factor

4U base with 48 drives

4U base with 48 drives

2U + 2U base + 2U drive shelf

Raw capacity (unclustered)

68TB – 3.7PB

91TB – 3.7PB

91TB – 3.7PB 

Raw Capacity (clustered)

68TB – 44PB 91TB – 44PB

91TB – 44PB

The new systems are boosted by hardware updates such as utilization of PCIe gen 5 and DDR 5 memory. Along with the new hardware updates, NetApp has additionally announced the latest version of the AFFs underlying operating system with the announcement of ONTAP 9.15.1.

The technology refresh will allow the new A series models to offer greater performance and value, while updates to ONTAP will further bolster the already robust functionality that NetApp offers in its AFF systems. All of which will continue to make AFF A series well suited for tier 1 enterprise workloads. In addition, however, NetApp is also positioning the AFF A series towards new AI and ML workloads.

In addition to the launch of the new A Series models, NetApp has announced the new models as the basis for its NetApp AIPod. The AIPod architecture provides a validated solution that combines NetApp AFF A-Series storage with NVIDIA DGXH100 and NVIDIA networking for AI and ML pipelines. NetApp additionally announced an AIPod with Lenovo for NVIDIA OVX which they have coined “GenAI-in-a-box.” This solution looks to provide a simplified, affordable, turn-key solution for GenAI fine tuning, inferencing, and RAG. These designs allow organizations to quickly get up and running with AI-ready infrastructure and provide flexibility for differing AI requirements.

While an announcement focused on AI is certainly not anything new—almost every vendor has found a way to discuss AI in one of their latest announcements—the focus here from NetApp alongside the new AFF additions is notable. The AFF A series updates not only round out the larger AFF portfolio, but they bolster NetApp’s high-end, high-performance systems, and in doing so offer a system that is capable of supporting both standard enterprise workloads, as well as enterprise AI workloads, such as with AIPod deployments.

Although the new AFF A series models provide a powerful, high end solution, they will not necessarily meet all AI workload needs. As NetApp ramps up its focus on AI, however, the new AFF A series solutions slot nicely into its broader portfolio. NetApp’s AI strategy additionally includes its EF-Series with BeeGFS for building and training large foundational models where a parallel file system is required, NetApp StorageGRID for providing object storage-based Data Lakes, and NetApp ONTAP based systems such as A Series, C Series, and FSx ONTAP for fine tuning, inferencing, and RAG.

NetApp has smartly recognized that the idea of an “AI workload” may be very different for different organizations – such as those building and training LLMs from scratch vs simply tuning and deploying a pre-trained model – and has positioned its portfolio accordingly. The majority of “AI workloads” seen in the enterprise are likely to fall into the fine-tuning, inferencing, and RAG category where ONTAP based systems are being positioned. By refreshing the A series, alongside its C series and its cloud native ONTAP offerings, NetApp is providing its customers with significant flexibility to leverage its AFF systems for AI.

Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.

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Author Information

Mitch comes to The Futurum Group through the acquisition of the Evaluator Group and is focused on the fast-paced and rapidly evolving areas of cloud computing and data storage. Mitch joined Evaluator Group in 2019 as a Research Associate covering numerous storage technologies and emerging IT trends.

With a passion for all things tech, Mitch brings deep technical knowledge and insight to The Futurum Group’s research by highlighting the latest in data center and information management solutions. Mitch’s coverage has spanned topics including primary and secondary storage, private and public clouds, networking fabrics, and more. With ever changing data technologies and rapidly emerging trends in today’s digital world, Mitch provides valuable insights into the IT landscape for enterprises, IT professionals, and technology enthusiasts alike.

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