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Why NetApp/EMC/Dell NAS solution instead of Windows Server 2012/2012-R2 Share (and/or DFS)?

Posted on 2014-03-10
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Last Modified: 2016-11-23
We are currently on NetApp and use it for SAN and NAS functionality with some basic quota management. We are leaving NetApp for various reasons and thus looking at the NAS solutions by the competitors and find the quota management and reporting leaving much to be desired.

I just started exploring all the various file and share management capabilities of a Windows Server installation. I've known for years about basic sharing of folders on Windows systems but never managing it from the services side of things. These two blog entries gave me a brief outline of what it is capable of and it seems to blow those enterprise NAS hardware/software solutions out of the water. Am I missing something? http://www.zohno.com/articles/2011/11/24/windows-server-2012-file-services/ and http://www.zohno.com/articles/2011/11/24/windows-server-2012-file-server-resource-manager/

What we want to do is have shares at various level and quotas as the root and subfolder levels. We want to report on the file usage, know who is using up the most space, have end user feedback that they hit a limit, know which directories are growing the fastest, etc. We also want to implement this all within DFS if possible. We want a common namespace so the user doesn't need to worry about what the IP and systemname is on the backend and we can then sync with our remote sites over the WAN. If they upload data we want it synced locally so we can back it up for them and handle restores.

We realize that DFS can have multiple systems underneath the various subfolders but another question I have is "can it point to NAS solutions from vendors like NetApp and then use the file resource manager tools to manage quotas instead of what those vendors provide? Or is that only managed outside of the DFS host? We are a VMware shop and on fully redundant SAN on the backend with large clusters so reliability and HA are covered from what we have set up.

Sorry for the loaded question. It's hard to find consultants who specialize in managing file shares, DFS, and can accurately compare those to the NAS solutions from NetApp, EMC, Dell, and other NAS providers.
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Question by:DITGUY
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by:
andyalder earned 168 total points
ID: 39918510
One thing you're missing is that the enterprise solutions offer multi-protocol support (and charge for it) whereas Microsoft's offering is pretty much geared to just Windows clients. If you don't need the extras protocols they provide then a MS based fileserver is ideal, you can even run a virus checker on it, you can't do that in a NetApp filer. There are also several 3rd party data archival and management tools available just because the market's so much bigger.

A Windows Storage Server based NAS is probably best, the only real differentials between that and "normal" Windows is that it doesn't use CALs and can't become a domain controller since it's sold as a NAS and storage application server. Try to install MS Exchange on it and it'll complain, but you can legally install SQL on it if it's doing a storage based job, e.g. Backup Exec catalog server.

Seems a waste of SAN space to use VMware/SAN for your fileserver, it's almost always cheaper to use local disks (including extra DAS enclosures if they won't fit inside) than store user data on an expensive SAN. You do need disks in every server if you use DFS replication so you'll buy more disks than you would have to buy to put it on a SAN, but then compare the cost of a generic 900GB SAS disk to a 900GB NetApp one.

I'm not the consultant you're looking for that knows the difference between each offering but I do know that if Windows can do it then it can be guaranteed to do it cheaper simply because of the number of Windows boxes out there.
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Author Comment

by:DITGUY
ID: 39918642
Thanks. The reason we have used the SAN/NAS solution in the past is because of site to site replication and snapshot retention as well as storage vMotion. Internal disks are capable of many of the features but it's a whole other storage platform to manage, report on (disk IO) etc. We have very large TB NAS solutions so it seems that Storage Server would be significantly cheaper. We have an excellent EA with Microsoft given the size of our global company and we have very large VMware clusters anyway. The only significant cost is on the storage space on the SAN. Also with DAS you have to make precautions for having enough drive bays or how many daisy chained enclosures your system can handle.

Regarding protocols we have mostly PCs with some Mac and Unix systems but Server 2012 and later support NFS shares for those rare cases so they would seem to work. Mac can connect to SMB shares too.
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Assisted Solution

by:paulsolov
paulsolov earned 166 total points
ID: 39918656
If you're doing NAS ADFS on local storage is a better solution all around.  Since you have a different sight for snapmirror you can have a DFS node there with active/active versus active passive with snapmirror/snapvault.  

BTW, if you're just doing VSM instead of using vfilers you would need to recreate shares on new IP or have a copy of cifs_shares_config file.
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Author Comment

by:DITGUY
ID: 39918704
We are moving off of NetApp to Compellent. If we do NAS with Compellent they have the FS8600 NAS head units.
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Author Comment

by:DITGUY
ID: 39918724
Does storage server provide near instant snapshot capabilities? right now we take snapshots of our 25TB systems every couple of hours and store for 7 days giving us very granular restore capability using the "Previous Versions" tab in a folder's properties tab. End users can restore their own files in seconds.
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Assisted Solution

by:robocat
robocat earned 166 total points
ID: 39923752
If you expect to retain the snapshot capabilities of the Netapp on any other solution, you're in for a big disappointment.  

Most solutions have great snapshot features on paper. Until you start asking about the limitations.

E.g. Windows server has a feature called "Shadow Copies for Shared Folders", but it is very limited in the number of snapshots you can keep and it can also have major performance impact on heavily loaded servers.

When NAS vendors claim to have similar snapshot features as Netapp, I ask them where I can see a real world example of an enterprise using the snapshots in a way like you describe (keeping hundreds of snapshots around). I never received an answer. Guess why.
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Author Comment

by:DITGUY
ID: 39924418
Thanks. We only use this feature for our NAS filers and 1 Windows server being used as a file server. I will check with our SAN vendors we're looking at to answer and show this functionality.
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Expert Comment

by:younghv
ID: 41620601
I've requested that this question be deleted for the following reason:

Not enough information to confirm an answer.
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Expert Comment

by:robocat
ID: 41620602
I would state that all experts contributed valuable information to answer the author's question. It seems he only forgot to close the question and award points.
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