Things to Consider Before Moving from 7-Mode to Clustered OnTap For NetApp, Data ONTAP 7-Mode is on the outs, and Clustered Data ONTAP (cDOT) is the wave of the future. If you have older NetApp systems in your shop running on 7-Mode, chances are you may already be thinking about transitioning to a newer filer that uses cDOT.

For bigger enterprise NetApp environments, there’s clear upsides to Cluster Mode with features such as seamless controller failover, movable aggregates, and more robust flex volumes. But for small and midsize NetApp shops, the value proposition of moving to Clustered Data ONTAP isn’t so cut and dry.

Depending on your environment, there are cases where it actually makes much more sense to hang onto your older 7-Mode system.

It’s Not Always a Seamless Upgrade

If you’re running a 7-Mode filer, upgrading to a cDOT system is never as simple as NetApp likes to make it sound. Particularly if you’re planning on doing an in-place upgrade, things can get complicated, fast. And while your NetApp rep may tell you it’s just a matter of seamlessly swapping out the head units on your system, the process is almost always a messy, resource-intensive affair.

If your shop is running direct attach to your filer, swing gear is going to be a necessity. Swing gear is almost always expensive and a pain in the rear to deploy correctly. And if you've got CIFS shares and NFS mount points, you're going to have to move all your data over to the swing gear. Then, when the storage is re-provisioned, you have to move all the data back. No fun at all. So before you commit to such a project, you’ve got to consider your time, your energy and much effort you want to invest.

Case in point: Last year, a customer we’ve worked with in the past moved from a FAS3240 to a FAS8040 based on NetApp’s promises of an easy transition. They ended up on the hook for an unforeseen $50,000 in professional services, because the process went sideways and they needed a lot of direct involvement from NetApp.

Understand You Have Options

Many NetApp users have no pressing need to upgrade, and would be perfectly happy to stay on their older 7-Mode system. But if you want to keep the filer under support, NetApp’s going to make you pay dearly for your stubbornness. NetApp will raise the price of filer support just enough so you end up paying more to keep the 7-Mode system under support than if you upgrade. So you end up saving money by taking on an entirely new system, even if you don’t need it.

If you’re running a production array your company requires to be under manufacturer support, then hey, chalk it up to the cost of doing business with NetApp. But if you’re filer’s serving a secondary storage role, such as a DR system or Test/Dev system, then you’re likely overspending on the order of tens of thousands of dollars to have that system supported with NetApp.

In this scenario, you can forego the headache of replacing your perfectly capable NetApp system and the long (non-seamless) migration process and just put what you have under Third-Party Support. If having manufacturer support isn’t a specific requirement for your business, you stand to save thousands of dollars per year.

Another thing you may want to consider prior to making the switch to cDOT is that it is still possible to upgrade your older NetApp filer that’s running 7-mode. Reliant Technology offers upgrades such as Disk Shelves and drives for NetApp filers up to 10 years old. So, as long as the system works for you, you can continue to use and upgrade it.

Ultimately, whether you decide to upgrade your NetApp filer to cDOT or keep your 7-Mode system around a bit longer, the best thing you can do is ask the hard questions now, and understand what you’re getting into. Weigh out the costs and benefits and choose for yourself what option makes the most sense.

If you’re considering making the change to Clustered ONTAP, our engineers are well-versed in the process and are happy to share what they know. Give us a call at 1.877.227.0828 or reach out to one of our NetApp storage specialists.