IT Infrastructure Insights

How To Cut NetApp Storage Costs

Apr 25, 2024

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By neglecting NetApp’s space guarantee setting, you could be wasting $100,000 or more keeping perfectly good storage space empty.

NetApp is one of the most popular storage vendors on the market. Many organizations purchase NetApp storage for its efficiency features, high performance and scalability, snapshot and data protection, or other flexibility and security benefits.

As with all storage, your NetApp storage architecture needs to be managed efficiently if you want to get the most out of it.

Unlike other storage devices, however, NetApp storage includes a unique setting – one that often gets overlooked and could be costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Volume Guarantees: NetApp’s Unique Safety Cushion

When defining a NetApp volume, there is an option to set the volume’s space guarantee. This space guarantee can be set to “volume” or “none.”

As an example, if you set the space guarantee on a 4 GB volume to “none,” then 0 GB will be reported as used on the volume.

However, if you changed your space guarantee to the volume guarantee setting, the volume will instead indicate that all 4 GB are used – even though the volume is empty. The system reserves 4 GB for the volume, and none of its free space remains usable in the aggregate. It is only usable on that exact volume.

Many organizations reflexively set their space guarantees to “volume.” This is essentially a thick provisioning strategy. The entire space allocated to the volume is reserved exclusively for that volume, and cannot be used by any other volumes, even if the actual data stored is less than the allocated space.

We like to call this “volume-locked free space.”

Using volume guarantees can significantly reduce the risk of running out of storage space. But this setting, while cautious, often leads to significant unused capacity.

In fact, our own clients have frequently found anywhere from 250 TB all the way to 2 PB of volume-locked free space hiding behind volume guarantees. At average storage rates, that’s potentially $100,000 to $1 million of wasted space.

Not So Fast: Reflexively Turning Off Space Guarantees Could Create Risk

Does that mean all you have to do is set your NetApp space guarantees to “none?”

Not necessarily. For starters, you need to ensure that doing so won’t result in immediate overallocations or outages. Then, you need to be able to monitor those volumes and devices over the long-run to maintain appropriate capacity and utilization levels.

The reality is there are times and places for both options. Guaranteeing your disk capacity is secured for a volume available has the benefit of making sure critical applications don’t unexpectedly run out of storage space, which could have disastrous consequences. It can also help avoid runaway file growth.

But that’s not true of all storage, especially if you have effective monitoring and capacity planning in place to prevent those kinds of instances.

Better Monitoring Enables Better Space Guarantee Decisions

The optimal strategy involves a judicious use of space guarantees. Decide when to set space guarantees to “none” for non-critical applications to maximize space utilization and maintain “volume” guarantees for essential services where data availability and performance are non-negotiable.

That might be easier said than done if you’re still using spreadsheets or native vendor tools for your infrastructure monitoring. But a strong monitoring tool will help you identify these opportunities for storage reclamation and prevent future overallocations through good capacity planning.

We’ve seen this many times with Visual One Intelligence. One of our clients was a major NetApp customer with nearly 15 PB of NetApp storage. Two years into a refresh project, they ran out of space even though they were buying more storage than their project demanded. Neither the client nor NetApp knew why.

After using Visual One Intelligence to analyze their NetApp devices, however, they quickly found their answer. Their space guarantees had been set to “volume” as the default configuration, resulting in 3 PB of volume-locked free space trapped behind specific volumes – 20% of their overall storage space.

With Visual One’s capacity planning and trends analysis, they quickly identified which volumes had the most capacity and could safely be set to a space guarantee of “none.”

Don’t Let Your NetApp Storage Go to Waste

As a vendor-neutral storage, virtualization, and cloud (all-in-one) monitoring tool, Visual One Intelligence is uniquely able to help NetApp organizations:

  • Find volume-locked free space
  • Determine when it’s safe to turn off space guarantees
  • Do effective capacity planning
  • Prevent outages and performance bottlenecks
  • Maximize efficiency across their entire storage and cloud landscape.

By consolidating independent data elements into unified metrics, Visual One’s platform correlates and interprets hybrid infrastructure data in order to illuminate cost-saving and operations-sustaining details that otherwise stay hidden.

There’s a lot to consider when evaluating software tools. That’s why we offer demos on-demand: no waiting, no sales pitch.

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