NetApp Ontap 9.1 HW refresh: Faster ports and more ports

NetApp announced hardware refresh recently, basically renewing all current FAS / AFF controller models.  This time I will investigate network connectivity and more so port counts rather than port speeds.


Few words about speeds: NetApp is the first storage vendor to offer BOTH 40GbE and 32 Gb Fibre Channel connectivity to/from storage controller. Faster is usually always better (but also more costly). In the past 10GbE or 16 Gb FC has offered more than enough bandwidth and network speeds were rarely a problem. Especially when using spinning disks, typically bottleneck was disks, not network. With All Flash Arrays and new flash technologies, like NVMe, the bottleneck might move from disks to connectivity, so having a possibility to use faster port speeds is welcome.

Port Count

Previous generation of NetApp hardware was released/designed during 7-mode Ontap era. With the release of Clustered Ontap requirements for port counts changed, two or more additional 10GbE ports are required for cluster interconnect network. With larger controller models with enough PCI slots or onboard 10GbE/UTA-2 ports this was rarely a problem. However there were few use cases where this was a problem, mainly with FAS2500 series and FAS8020 platforms. The latest hardware refresh fixes these issues by having more onboard (10GbE) ports.

FAS2500 series vs FAS2600 series

With previous generation FAS2500 series there are four UTA2 ports per controller. UTA2 ports can be equipped with either 10GbE sfp+ or 8/16 Gb Fibre channel optics. With 7-mode Ontap you could use all four UTA2 ports for host connectivity and connect host with both 10GbE and FC.

However with Clustered Ontap two of UTA2 ports are used for Cluster Interconnect network, leaving only two UTA2 ports for host connectivity. So you had option to use 10GbE or 8/16 Gb Fibre channel, but not both.


New FAS2600 series controller has two additional 10GbE ports onboard, so you can use 10GbE and 8/16 Gb FC for host connectivity at the same time.

Additionally with FAS2600 series SAS ports are now 12 Gbit/s , earlier versions were 6 Gbit/s (also using different SAS-HD cables with smaller form factor connectors).

With FAS2600 series there are no 1 GbE RJ-45 ports anymore. If 1 GbE connectivity is required, UTA2 ports can be equipped either with 1 GbE sfp or 1GbE sfp-RJ-45 modules.

Since new “cluster” shelves do not use ACP anymore “locked wrech” port has been removed as well.

FAS8020 Metrocluster vs FAS8200 Metrocluster

With the previous generation FAS8020 you could build a MetroCluster, but had to make some compromises, for example use only 10GbE or 8/16G FC for host connections or/and run all back-end SAN connections from one adapter.

Screen Shot 2016-11-04 at 11.52.38.png

With two additional 10GbE ports, 4-port 16G FC adapter (X1133A) and capability to use onboard UTA2-ports for FC-VI connection with FAS8200 / AFF A300 platform it is now possible to build a fully fledged MetroCluster without taking any shortcuts or making any compromises with host connectivity.

Screen Shot 2016-11-04 at 11.52.51.png

Click below links for example drawings of fully cabled 2-Node and 4-node AFF A300 Metroclusters

2-Node NetApp AFF A300 Metrocluster

4-Node NetApp AFF A300 Metrocluster

With FAS8200 / AFF A300 platform the number of SAS ports has been doubled, FAS8020 controller had only two SAS ports, where as FAS8200 has four SAS ports. It is now possible to use stack-based ownership by dedicating a SAS stack per controller. With FAS8020 you had to use either disk or shelf-based ownership. This is improvement for both non-Metrocluster and SAS-connected Metroclusters.

Thanks for reading, comments / likes are welcome



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