NetApp versus EMCBy Dan Barber

At Reliant Technology, we’re agnostic when it comes to storage manufacturers and competing devices. In this case, NetApp FAS and EMC VNX are both superior storage systems from manufacturers with impeccable reputations. Still, one may be a better fit for you than the other. How do you go about choosing between them?

Here are 5 points you need to consider.

1. Preference

To help you make the decision, we’d first ask if you’ve used one or the other already and have a preference. Or maybe you’re neutral but your manager has a preference. A lot of the features are the same on the two systems, so the choice often boils down to a matter of preference.

2. Requirements

The most common mistake people make in writing RFQs is that they’re not specific enough. Saying you need 15TB of storage is barely scratching the surface of what you need to be spelling out. What kind of performance levels do you need? For example, do you need big LUNs or small LUNs? That matters: EMC is limited to 16TB LUNs in a storage pool, whereas NetApp can go up to 165, depending on the line you buy. If you have a requirement for RAID level 50, you’re not going to buy a NetApp product because it can’t do RAID 50. If you have a requirement for deduplication on your production SAN, you’ll need to buy NetApp because EMC doesn’t do that. Those are just a couple of the many parameters you need to spell out in your requirements document.

3. Integration

How will the device integrate with your backup system? Let’s say your environment has Dell EqualLogic arrays and you’re backing up to EMC DataDomain arrays. If you’re replacing the Dells and are debating between NetApp and EMC, it makes more sense to consolidate on EMC as a production SAN because you already have EMC on the backup side.

You should also look at how the storage device you select will integrate with the rest of the systems you’re presenting storage to. For example, if you’re using VMWare or Hyper-V or Citrix hypervisors to virtualize your system, ask what integration features each vendor has that you like. For example, NetApp doesn’t have a plug-in for VMWare to manage multipathing. Instead, it uses a built-in driver. EMC on the other hand has a high-performance multipathing driver—you have to pay for it—but many users say it works better than the built-in ones for VMWare. Ask also how NetApp software integrates with Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server and VMWare versus how EMC integrates.

4. Administration

Some customers prefer EMC because its ControlCenter, which is usually free, can be set up to manage multiple EMC arrays and Cisco switches. You can modify your Cisco switch and storage array all at the same time, which reduces time required to provision new servers and storage. On the other hand, NetApp is generally quicker to set up and easier to manage, but it’s less traditional. If you’re more comfortable with traditional setups, you’ll lean toward an EMC VNX.

5. Priorities

In the end, you’ll have a list of requirements, but what’s maybe even more important is your list of priorities. If the priority is ease of management, that will dispose you in favor of NetApp. If the priority is the flexibility to do a wide range of things in your environment, you’ll be disposed in favor of EMC. Weigh your priorities, do a comparison, and go with the device that’s the best fit.

Keep in mind that at the end of the day, both options will most likely deliver the same result, but may go about it in very different ways. The one that’s better for you will depend on your own preferences, requirements, environment and priorities.