By incorporating flash memory as intelligent cache in its unified storage systems, NetApp helps customers optimize performance without adding complexity, while decreasing both capital and operating expenses. Customer adoption and industry standard tests underscore NetApp’s success in helping customers make the most of their data centers with Flash Cache.
As an alternative to adding a storage tier of solid state disks, NetApp applies solid state technology as intelligent cache to optimize performance for workloads such as file services, messaging, virtual infrastructure, and Online Transaction Processing databases. Flash Cache modules are easy to install, require no ongoing administration, and automatically cache data that is under high demand to provide read times at least 10 times faster than hard disk drives and to help reduce storage system costs by up to 50% for mainstream applications. Each Flash Cache module can provide performance equivalent to dozens of high-performance disk drives, helping customers realize substantial savings by configuring storage systems with fewer, larger, and cheaper hard disk drives.
Using flash memory to automatically cache frequently accessed data gives customers the speed and accessibility they need without sacrificing simplicity and efficiency. Customers have validated NetApp’s distinct approach to solid state technology by purchasing more than 5,000 caching modules so far. They also buy Flash Cache with nearly 20% of the systems for which it is available, which is significantly higher than estimated attach rates for vendors that offer flash as persistent storage. Caching can give customers an easy, cost-effective way to apply solid state technology for better storage system performance.
One NetApp customer seeing real-world benefits from Flash Cache is Apache Corporation. Apache is a $29.53 billion independent energy company that explores, develops, and produces natural gas, crude oil, and natural gas liquids. To meet growing customer demand, Apache is placing greater emphasis on its exploration and production efforts. This involves intensive geologic and seismic modeling using a collaborative, high-performance 64-bit Windows environment. In the last four years, data volumes have grown 700%, to 3.5PB. Apache uses Flash Cache to optimize its exploration efforts and shorten the time it takes to get product to its customers.
“Decreasing our time to discovery is vital to the company’s continued success, and we need solutions that can keep up with the pace and scale of exploration and give us a competitive advantage,” said Bradley Lauritsen, Manager of Exploration Computing at Apache Corp. “With NetApp Flash Cache, we’re seeing nearly a 70% cache hit rate in a shared seismic working environment, eliminating the need for the system to retrieve data from the SATA drives 70% of the time. This helps deliver data in seconds instead of minutes or tens of minutes, which keeps our geoscientists working efficiently and effectively.”
The effectiveness of Flash Cache has also been demonstrated with the industry standard SPECsfs2008 benchmark for Windows file services. In a set of three published results, NetApp demonstrated that a storage system with Flash Cache and SATA disk drives can provide 50% more capacity and deliver performance comparable to the same system configured with more than twice as many high-performance Fibre Channel disk drives. The configuration with Flash Cache and SATA drives also costs 57% less per terabyte, uses 59% less rack space, and reduces power consumption by 66%.
Flash Cache modules (previously called PAM II) use enterprise-grade SLC NAND flash memory and are available in 256GB and 512GB sizes, allowing up to 4TB of intelligent cache per storage system. NetApp now also offers 2TB SATA disk drives, which together with Flash Cache can reduce overall storage costs without compromising performance for many applications.