Upon first glance, the NetApp FAS 2040 appears similar to other midrange storage arrays. However, the 3U rack-mount unit offers something rarely found in storage arrays at any price: deduplication of primary storage, not just backups. This support comes in addition to more standard features such as snapshots, mirroring of volumes and thin provisioning.
The configuration we tested had a usable capacity of 2.1 terabytes. Higher capacity drives are available, and expansion units can increase the total raw capacity to 408TB.
Deduplication frees up storage capacity. If another copy of the file or a matching part of it is saved to the FAS 2040, that data isn't stored again. Instead, a placeholder is stored that uses much less space. If a user opens the file, makes changes and saves the result, the new file is stored separately. This can make a huge difference in some circumstances. For example, if many directories with similar contents are stored on the system, 100 copies of the same data will occupy little more space than a single copy.
The FAS 2040 also supports snapshots, which duplicate an existing volume very quickly. Administrators can use this snapshot to create a tape backup or to make an additional copy of data for special processing. The snapshot is also deduplicated and consumes additional space only if changes from the original volume are made.
The FAS 2040 supports several modes of operation, including Fibre Channel, iSCSI and network-attached storage with Common Internet File System or
Network File System protocols. This ensures the array can easily integrate with an existing storage infrastructure regardless of which systems are already in place.
51,000 Number of separate snapshots of a volume the FAS 2040 can support
Why It Works for IT
Data centers always need more storage. If you can purchase storage with all the other features you want and obtain deduplication too, that goes a long way toward making the storage more efficient. The FAS 2040 is priced in the same range generally as other arrays, but it offers the deduplication functionality that most others don't yet have.
Deduplication proves useful in virtualized environments where many virtual machines often have more than 90 percent of their files in common with each other. As virtualization spreads through the enterprise, the FAS 2040 offers an excellent option for storing virtualization data.
Because deduplication requires additional processing, the storage system's performance may not be as fast as arrays that lack this capability. Additionally, because the FAS 2040 must keep track of other copies of files that have been deduplicated, some files could be lost if the system has a software failure.
But overall, the NetApp FAS 2040 delivers strong basic functionality combined with sophisticated snapshot and deduplication features — not uncommon in disk-based backup systems but still rare in online storage systems. At a price that's comparable to systems without deduplication, the FAS 2040 offers substantial advantages to IT administrators.
New to the Block
The earliest deduplication was performed at the file level, meaning files with the same name, size and contents were deduplicated. Now deduplication functions at the sub-block level, which means that if even a small part of a file matches a part of other files, that part is deduplicated. Working at the lower level increases efficiency because one small change to a file doesn't require a completely new copy; only the part that has been changed is stored separately.