ONTAP 9.6RC1 is out now, which is no surprise to those who follow the new ONTAP release cadence at NetApp. For several years, we’ve been releasing two versions a year, in the fall and spring. Typically a long-term support (LTS) release comes out in the fall but this year, the model has changed a bit. Going forward, every release will be a long-term supported release with 3 years of full support, 2 years limited support, and 3 years of self-service support. In case you were holding back on the spring release of ONTAP out of concern for it not being a LTS release, go ahead and upgrade! It will be a great experience with a simple automated upgrade, like any ONTAP upgrade.
The primary theme of ONTAP 9.6 is simplicity. I’ve talked to many customers and partners who will happily reduce the tunability of a product in exchange for a simpler user experience. With ONTAP 9.6, there are a number of improvements that will deliver a simpler experience for administrators.
The first of these features is a excellent out-of-box experience that reduces the setup to 5 simple steps. After the initial setup, quick provisioning workflows and guided LUN placement allow you to get your applications configured faster. Configuration of replication continues to be simplified, so you can ensure all your data is protected and available. Finally, upgrade has been simplified to allow faster and more convenient upgrade from a laptop.
The management ecosystem has changed as well. Now OnCommand System Manager is ONTAP System Manager. This is where you’ll go to manage a single ONTAP cluster. The look and feel has been updated to be more intuitive and provide simpler workflows. You’ll see some of these improvements the first time you log in. In the background, System Manager is using REST APIs to deliver a simpler management experience
AFF A320 and NVMe
Along with ONTAP 9.6, NetApp is releasing a new controller, the AFF A320, with onboard 100GbE ports for high performance connectivity. The AFF A320 will support the new NS224 NVMe expansion shelf. This combination of high performance and low latency will be a great fit for artificial intelligence and deep learning workloads.
ONTAP supports a couple different types of encryption. Encryption through NSE drives means that everything on the cluster is encrypted. This feature is a great fit for secure environments but sometimes you only want to encrypt some of the data on the cluster. Volume level encryption allows you to encrypt data for an individual volume but could be tedious to maintain for many volumes. Aggregate level encryption fills the gap between these two, providing a simpler experience without needing to purchase special hardware or encrypt all the data on a cluster.
New MetroCluster Support
As a past MetroCluster engineer, I always like to keep track of the new things the team is doing. MetroCluster has been supported with an IP backend for over a year now. The team has slowly increased the distance between the sites, now allowing up to 700km of distance. New in ONTAP 9.6 is support for smaller systems, the AFF A220 and the FAS2750.