The most recent operating system for NetApp Enterprise Storage Solutions is Clustered Data ONTAP, also sometimes referred to as 8-mode. Many companies, however, are still using the previous system — 7-mode, also now called ONTAP Traditional or 7G.
Many of these companies are now wondering if it’s time to upgrade to the latest operating system. This post will discuss the differences between the two systems, how to decide when and whether to switch and the basics of how to do so.
The Differences Between NetApp 7-Mode and Clustered Data ONTAP
Clustered ONTAP is more complex than 7-mode, but its early versions didn’t have all of the functionalities that 7-mode did. NetApp, however, has been steadily adding features to its new system and is in the process of ensuring Clustered has all of the functionality that 7-mode does. At this point, NetApp has also taken care of the majority of early bugs and necessary changes.
Overall, NetApp 7-mode and cluster mode are relatively similar, but some key differences set them apart.
1. Number of Storage Controllers
7-mode features two storage controllers, which are configured as a high availability (HA) pair. There is one controller at each site.
The clustered mode has four controllers configured as two HA pairs, and there is one HA pair at each site. However, it also allows you to connect more pairs if needed. The exact number of pairs it can support depends on which version and configuration you’re using. This means that you can easily scale your system by adding new nodes to the cluster without disrupting service. Each node that you add in cluster mode adds linear performance scaling for CPU, memory and system throughput.
If you want to add more HA pairs to your cluster, you will need to add a switch to use the switched cluster configuration. This requires adding a separate Ethernet network with a dedicated switch or two switches to make the network redundant. Installing a cluster interconnect switch for a two-node configuration will make easier to expand in the future. This cluster interconnect switch connects the various nodes and is the primary hardware difference between 7-mode and clustered data ONTAP.
No matter how many nodes it has, a cluster is managed as a single system, which reduces complexity and operational costs. In Clustered ONTAP, for example, you could have 24 nodes that all operate as one system by connecting through the cluster interconnect switch. In 7-mode, you would need 12 separate systems to have 24 nodes, and these systems would not connect with one another.
2. Active-Active Load Balancing
In 7-mode, clients can only access data through a port in the controller that owns that data. With clustered ONTAP, clients can access data through ports in any controller. If a controller other than the one they’re using to access their data doesn’t own that data, it will be sent to them through the cluster interconnect. This can be referred to as active-active load balancing.
You also have the option of mirroring data across the various controllers, which means that a client can access data directly from any controller, without using the cluster interconnect.
Because the cluster interconnect connects all of the nodes, you can easily migrate data between them to rebalance it more evenly or move data to lower or higher performance disks. You can transfer data without disrupting service.
3. Local Failover
With 7-mode, if there is a problem at the local site, the system will fail over to the partner site. In clustered mode, a failover can occur at either site without causing an overall switchover of the configuration. Both versions of the operating system have a single command for failover or switchover.
Both 7-mode and Clustered ONTAP support multi-tenancy, but there are differences in how they do so. Cluster mode uses Storage Virtual Machines or SVMs. In earlier versions of Clustered Data ONTAP, they were called Vservers. 7-mode also uses vfilers to support multi-tenancy. With Clustered ONTAP, however, the implementation of multi-tenancy support is cleaner and better-integrated.
Benefits of Clustered ONTAP
The benefits that the new features of Clustered ONTAP provide include:
- Scalability: Clustered ONTAP is easier to scale than 7-mode.
- Reduced Downtime: You can add nodes, make repairs and move data without disrupting service.
- Reduced Complexity: Because you can manage many nodes as one system, complexity and cost are reduced for larger systems.
- Flexibility: Data is accessible through any controller, and you can also move data around the cluster.
- Multi-Tenancy: Clustered ONTAP provides improved support for multi-tenancy.
- Reliability: New hardware and software offer increased reliability.
- Speed: New hardware and software offer increased speed.
NetApp 7-Mode Versus Cluster Mode Data ONTAP — What Factors Should You Consider?
When considering whether to upgrade to upgrade to Clustered ONTAP and stick with 7-mode, there are various factors you should consider and questions you should ask yourself. They include the following:
1. The Performance of Your Existing System
Getting a clear picture of how your current systems are performing can help you determine whether it’s time to upgrade. Take a look at both your storage hardware and software. Operating systems are crucial, but typically hardware and software drive more of a company’s day-to-day activities. Ask yourself how stable these assets are for you.
Most often, hardware will fail before any issues related to software occur since spinning media does have a limited lifespan. Consider whether you have a sufficient inventory of spare hardware or access to spares through a third party. Take a look also at the maintenance issues that occurred in the past few years and determine how many have their roots in storage.
2. Transition Costs and Feasibility
You will also need to take into account the costs of transitioning to the new system versus the benefits of making the switch from 7-mode to cluster mode. Additionally, consider how you would facilitate the upgrade, which will impact the costs of doing so and how long it will take to complete.
Consider how many staff you have who are experienced with storage systems and can complete the upgrade. You’ll also need to make sure your team is large enough to complete the update while still taking care of other IT needs. Your team will need a considerable amount of time to complete the changeover, and the operation will require extensive planning.
Hiring a third party to upgrade your system requires less time and work on the part of your IT team, but it can be more expensive, so the cost will be a more significant factor.
3. 7-Mode Will No Longer Receive Upgrades
Another factor to keep in mind is the fact that NetApp has released the final version of 7-mode, meaning there will be no more upgrades to it in the future. This could be a reason to stay with 7-mode or move on, depending on your perspective.
If your storage system is working well for you, and you don’t anticipate that you will outgrow it soon, not having upgrades could be a positive aspect. It means that maintenance will be easier and the operation of your system will be predictable for as long as you use it.
On the other hand, you may be having issues with 7-mode, or you might expect that you’ll need to expand it in the future. In this case, you will likely need to switch to Clustered ONTAP, because you won’t get any future upgrades from 7-mode.
4. Support Services
The end of support services is another concern, as NetApp and third-party resellers move toward Clustered ONTAP. Over time, your options for support related to 7-mode will diminish and may become more expensive. You likely have some time, though, before the system is entirely unsupported.
It’s important to consider, though, that you may be able to save money by using a third-party maintenance provider. Although maintenance can become more difficult as a product ages, keep alternative options, such as third parties, in mind.
5. Scaling Requirements
Your storage needs and how much you expect to scale within the coming years should factor into your decision regarding NetApp 7-mode versus 8-mode. If you don’t expect that your company will need to expand its storage much in the near future, you may be able to continue using 7-mode for longer. If you will need to scale your system beyond the limits of 7-mode soon, though, you should upgrade.
6. Speed Requirements
A NetApp 7 to 8 upgrade will speed up your systems and can make your daily operations more efficient. Ask yourself whether you need to increase the speed of your storage and retrieval system. If you’re having problems related to speed, upgrading from NetApp 7-mode to cluster mode may help. If you’re satisfied with the speed of your system, this aspect might not be of much benefit to your organization.
7. Service Level Requirements
Determine how much Clustered ONTAP could help you improve the service level you can offer. Then, consider whether that improvement is worth the cost of the upgrade. Switching to the new operating system can enable your storage system to be online more of the time due to the reliability of the latest hardware and software. Clustered ONTAP also allows you to perform hardware maintenance, upgrades and repairs without interrupting service.
The Decision-Making Process
If you’re working on deciding on whether or when to transition from 7-mode to cluster-mode, take the following steps.
- Make sure you understand the differences between the two systems.
- Evaluate how your current system is performing. Check how stable the version of 7-mode you have has been for you and assess the state of your hardware and software.
- Assess whether you have reliable access to spare hardware and the quality of the support you have available for 7-mode.
- Evaluate your future needs, including whether you will need to scale your system in the near future.
- Determine whether Clustered ONTAP is necessary for meeting those needs.
- Calculate the potential return on investment of switching to Clustered ONTAP and determine whether the benefits of switching will outweigh the costs.
- If staying with 7-mode, assess and refine your maintenance plan. If switching, create a plan for how you will upgrade and implement it.
How to Transition
Upgrading from 7-mode to cluster-mode can be quite involved. The guide from NetApp for upgrading from 7-mode to Data ONTAP 8.2, as well as reverting, is more than 100 pages long. Before you begin the upgrade process, you should make sure you are familiar with the steps required and create a plan for your upgrade.
The basic steps for upgrading include:
First, familiarize yourself with the required steps and create an upgrade plan. You should:
- Go over the release notes for your Data ONTAP upgrade target release.
- Ensure that you understand the requirements for upgrading to Data ONTAP from your current software. The NetApp UPgrade Advisor tool may be able to help you with this if it is available in your environment.
- Create a plan for reverting to the system that you were running before the upgrade. It is unlikely that you will need to do this, but you should have a plan in case of unexpected circumstances.
- Create a plan for noting changes to your system that occur after the upgrade.
- If using storage systems in an HA pair, choose the correct upgrade method and make sure that the HA configuration is correct.
- If using a SAN environment for your storage system, check that your SAN configuration is fully supported. Ensure that all SAN components are listed in the interoperability matrix. This includes Data ONTAP software, host OS and patches, Host Utilities software and adapter drivers and firmware.
- If using the SnapMirror software, identify systems with destination and source volumes.
- If running MetroCluster systems, check that all your MetroCluster components are compatible with the version of Data ONTAP you are upgrading to.
Next, you may need to take steps to prepare your system for the upgrade. These actions might include:
- Resolving any upgrade issues, such as performing an intermediate upgrade.
- Making sure you have a current Snapshot copy of the root volume of systems being upgraded.
- Making sure you have a current Snapshot copy of the SnapMirror source and destination volumes. This will help prevent a baseline transfer in case you need to downgrade the system to a previous version.
- Updating your disk firmware.
- Updating your disk shelf firmware.
- Updating your storage system firmware.
Once you’re ready to upgrade, here’s how you install the new software:
- First, ensure you obtain the proper software image from the NetApp Support Site. Make the image directly available to your storage system or an HTTP server on your network.
- Next, install the Data ONTAP software image on your storage system. You may extract the system files from the software image either before or during the download process.
- Then, download the system files to your boot device. When the hardware reboots with the new version of Data ONTAP, the upgrade is complete.
After the upgrade is complete, you should check that your systems are operating as expected following the upgrade.
- Review the status of configured functionality and re-enable any functionality that you suspended before the upgrade.
- Create a plan for maintenance and upgrades and follow it to ensure that your system continues operating optimally.
Let Worldwide Supply Help You With Your NetApp Transition
Should you transition from NetApp 7-mode to clustered ONTAP? To determine whether making the switch is the right choice for your organization, evaluate your current system’s performance, your future needs, the benefits clustered ONTAP can provide and the costs associated with upgrading.
Working with an experienced company like Worldwide Supply that can provide network equipment or maintenance service can also make a substantial difference. We have thousands of products available for immediate delivery and certified engineers to help you design or configure your systems. To learn more, explore our website or contact us today.