I’ve just finished reading NetApp’s white paper WP-7193, FAS Hardware: Optimized for I/O Expandability, and Reliability.
First off I would say that this is not a paper that is heavy on the technical details. It more of a “this is what we do and how we do it” paper. At time it does read like a marketing paper but over all its a paper that would be good for somebody to read that is new to NetApp and would like to find out a bit more about the technology.
The focus is on their FAS series, which is where I would expect most peoples first contact with NetApp would be and covers a fair amount of topics from Storage I/O Data paths to on disk error correction.
One of the topics is touches on is the attitude that a storage system (NetApp, EMC, 3PAR, etc) is really just a fancy server with disks attached. While the argument can be made it usually indicates a lack of understanding of how a dedicated storage appliance really works. Yes is has an Intel CPU and Toshiba RAM and Hitachi disks but it is highly optimised to perform two functions: Serve Data, Protect Data. Both ways it is an interesting argument. How much is hardware and how much is software. With the availability of very well featured software storage OS’s such as FreeNAS the waters get muddied further.
I used FreeNAS extensively when studying for the VCAP-DCA exam, it worked and worked well. However the question is, can it compare? For certain uses, sure, its a viable alternative, cost effective and easy to manage. Could it go head-to-head with a FAS2240? Even though I doubt it, its something I am curious to test.