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NetApp SolidFire Element OS
Simplify and automate data management at scale.

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NetApp SolidFire Element OS
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Element OS product brief

Achieve a scalable, predictable, automated infrastructure

Build a next-generation data center with a software platform that's as agile as your business demands.

Consolidate diverse, rapidly changing applications. Guarantee performance to every workload. And automate storage consumption so you can focus on moving the business forward.

Guarantee performance

Provide predictable performance to hundreds of applications on a single platform—every time.

Fine-grain performance control with guaranteed storage QoS ensures application predictability and enables successful consolidation at scale.

Guarantee performance

Flexible purchasing for your flexible software

Capacity Licensing unbundles Element OS from the underlying hardware, allowing you to purchase and grow your cloud infrastructure in a way that aligns with your ever-changing demands.

  • Enterprise-wide Element OS license eliminates stranded capacity and enables geographic flexibility
  • The Element OS license is not locked to particular hardware, allowing upgrades or replacements at any time
  • Built-in, usage-based discounts drive prices down as capacity grows

Element OS Delivers Agility



Scale your storage infrastructure on demand, eliminating multiyear capacity and performance projections.



Meet your application SLAs with guaranteed performance for every workload.



Automate complex storage tasks and deliver deep management integration. Focus on innovation—not maintenance.



Guard against failures with built-in replication and seamless SnapMirror integration for cross-platform disaster recovery across the Data Fabric.

Primary Use Cases

Simplify & Automate

Discover storage built to enable the demands of your production-ready cloud environments—enabling self-service IT and accelerating the speed of business.

Build Cloud Hosting Infrastructure

Differentiate your hosted and managed services to increase service and platform revenue. Ensure higher customer satisfaction.

Accelerate DevOps

DevOps is evolving into a mainstream approach for managing a modern, programmable infrastructure. Start your transformation by automating every aspect of storage.

Flexible Deployments

Your journey to the next-generation data center presents more options than ever for consuming storage infrastructure. Each NetApp SolidFire deployment model delivers the compelling features and functionality of Element OS.

All-Flash Array

Accelerate next-generation data-center deployments with a node-based, web-scale solution.

Capacity Licensing

Gain the cost and flexibility benefits of software-only storage—without the supply-chain, system-integration, and support complexities.

NetApp HCI

Consolidate workloads with guaranteed performance and the ability to easily manage storage and compute independently.

FlexPod SF

Reduce IT risk and costs while simplifying your consumption with a prevalidated solution from NetApp and Cisco.

Multiple Business Advantages

Independent Resources

Independent Resources

Allocate and manage independent pools of performance and capacity for complete control of resource utilization.

Unmatched Agility

Unmatched Agility

Respond to changing demands on the fly—without migrating data or interrupting I/O.

Global Efficiencies

Global Efficiencies

Shrink your data center footprint. Lower operational costs. Global, always-on efficiencies maximize your resources.

Data Assurance

Data Assurance

Reduce operational overhead and risk. Element OS delivers secure multitenancy on a resilient, self-healing architecture.

How It Works:

In the modern data center, a constant struggle exists between applications and storage. Applications are very sensitive and require adequate storage performance and capacity to operate. Any imbalance can negatively impact an application’s ability to perform, causing a ripple effect to the business.

Flash solves many of the performance problems, but due to the significant performance available in an allflash array, most systems will run out of capacity before performance. With a scale-up storage system, the design of storage controller dictates the system performance. Regardless of how much capacity you have left, if you need to add performance, you are stuck buying another controller pair. Getting to an ideal balance of capacity and performance is nearly impossible. NetApp SolidFire’s scale-out systems are architected to be the most scalable storage system to provide a way to perfectly balance storage performance and capacity.

scale process

The scale process
In order to provide an all-flash storage system capable of scaling seamlessly and nondisruptively, NetApp SolidFire utilizes solid-state storage and provides hosts separate pools of capacity and performance. Traditional storage architecture marries the two and cannot separate performance from capacity. This results in stranded capacity and inconsistent performance. The solid-state pool of capacity is separated into metadata and block data capacity.

The metadata capacity today consumes one-tenth of the node’s storage capacity and is simply the list of block identifiers used by each volume on the system. NetApp SolidFire block data capacity, which is the remaining nine-tenths of storage capacity on each node stores two copies of each unique 4k block. This architecture was specifically designed to ensure effortless in-line data reduction and guaranteed consistent performance.

Mix and match
It is critical that a storage system helps you avoid the lengthy downtime and business impact of the “forklift” upgrade. Many storage systems have specific shelves of disk that are only compatible with certain controllers, limiting expansions or requiring downtime for upgrades. NetApp SolidFire’s scale-out architecture makes it possible to add the latest node model to any of the previously released models and operate them as a single cluster. When a node of the same or different configuration is added to an active cluster, the block and metadata services are responsible for rebalancing data in the cluster across all nodes.

All active volumes running on the cluster remain the same, and no remaps or rescans are necessary. Regardless of the SSD size, NAND type, or vendor/model, NetApp SolidFire’s system is built to simply consume it as additional capacity and performance. This software-based approach to storage is what allows the NetApp SolidFire infrastructure to be so flexible,not forcing customers into a specific configuration path.

Capacity management

As a new node(s) is introduced to a cluster, its performance and capacity (block and metadata) are added to the collective pool of the NetApp SolidFire cluster. When block drives are added into the system, NetApp SolidFire evenly distributes the existing block data on to the newly added block capacity. This results in the newly added node having an equal share of block data compared to each other node in the system. Similar to the block service, the metadata service also evenly distributes volumes to the newly added metadata service, ensuring constant redundancy across all nodes in the cluster. During the scale-out process, the cluster will temporarily contain three copies of each block of data instead of its standard two copies (include link to data assurance page for reference) of data. This extra copy of data ensures that the newly created copy of the data is stored on the newly added capacity before it removes the copy that it was migrated from. This process ensures that while scaling is in progress, the maximum level of data assurance and protection is used. In addition, NetApp SolidFire calculates which volumes need to move to achieve a perfectly balanced I/O and capacity combination for the cluster.

capacity management

Planned (sunny day) capacity removal (scale-in)
NetApp SolidFire’s architecture allows storage to be shaped and shifted based on individual needs. For a planned node removal (i.e. sunny day — manual removal of nodes), an administrator goes through the proper process of marking a node and its drives for removal, which initiates the system to balance capacity off of the node being removed. For the block service, the data that exists on each drive is rebalanced to a node that is remaining in the cluster. Metadata follows the same process, but instead of blocks of data being moved, primary and secondary copies of metadata are gracefully migrated off the node that is desired to be removed. Once metadata and block data have both been successfully re-protected, then the system marks the node as safe for removal.

Unplanned (rainy day) capacity removal
In the event that data needs to be rebalanced due to an unplanned failure, the SF system will self heal and automatically rebalance any data that was on the component that failed. When a component has failed and the system needs to rebalance/ reprotect the data, there is a five-minute waiting period. The five-minute wait time is important to prevent triggering an unnecessary cluster rebalance for a simple reboot or temporary power loss event. Each block of data present on the lost node is automatically reprotected and rebalanced on one of the nodes still remaining in the cluster. Metadata and block data rebalancing/reprotection occur independently and will trigger separately or together if needed. For example, in the case of complete power loss for a node, both block and metadata will sync. Also, if only the metadata drive fails, then only the metadata will rebalance/reprotect.

prevent business disruption

Preventing business disruption

In every cluster, there is a cluster master service responsible for maintaining a full copy of all cluster operations to ensure that operations such as adding, removing, or the failure of a node does not disrupt active operations on the cluster. This is important because the master service keeps track of the service profiles, capacity, authentication, snapshot schedule, and data protection strategy for every volume in the system.

Network connectivity

All hosts connect to a NetApp SolidFire cluster through the storage virtual cluster IP address. Once the connection is established, a redirector service passes the connection to the node which contains the primary metadata copy for the volume the host is requesting access for. During the node removal process, great care is taken to prevent a host from losing connection to its volume. f there is an active connection from the host to a node that is being removed, the secondary copy is promoted to primary and a new secondary is created. A seamless iSCSI redirect then occurs, and the application remains connected to its volume. A similar process occurs when adding a node to a cluster. The newly added node will take on its portion of volumes to help evenly distribute load and capacity on the system. As volumes are rebalanced to provide optimal placement, a seamless iSCSI redirect occurs if the active connection is moved to one of the new nodes added to the system.

Benefits of NetApp SolidFire scale-out storage

In a cloud, you are never going to need to add an exactly equal amount of performance or capacity, and it’s never a guarantee that you need to add the same level of capacity and performance that you have been purchasing. This is why it is essential to choose an arch that allows you to pick a ratio of performance and capacity that best fits your business needs.

Nondisruptive scale-out / scale-in - Add or remove nodes to a NetApp SolidFire cluster without disrupting service or compromising volume-level Quality of Service (QoS) settings. Data is automatically redistributed in the background across all nodes in the cluster, maintaining perfect balance as the system grows.

Instant resource availability - Newly added storage capacity and performance resources are instantly available to each and every volume within the system — eliminating the need to reallocate volumes over new drives.

Simplify capacity planning - Initial implementations begin with a simple 4 node / 4U cluster configuration and scale out easily via 1U node increments, allowing performance and capacity resources to be added as needs dictate. Eliminate multi-year capacity and performance projections and scale on demand.

Seamless generational upgrades - New nodes with more capacity and performance are simply added to the established cluster, while old nodes are removed, retired, or repurposed. No rebalancing, restriping, or volume reallocation required. And all Quality of Service (QoS) settings remain enforced.


Fully automated software that delivers agility and guaranteed application performance at web scale to your all-flash storage platform.

  • Achieve nondisruptive system expansion with instant resource availability.
  • Deliver predictable performance to hundreds of applications on a single platform.
  • Drive your business forward with automated operational simplicity.
  • Flexible deployment models to fit your next-generation center needs.

The agility to scale, predict, and automate data demonstrated by cloud computing infrastructure has raised the bar on expectations for IT service delivery. In an era when IT is expected to make sure of production-grade support with an abundance of new applications and data, IT architects are looking for new ways to eliminate bottlenecks, enable greater operational efficiency, and move the business forward. The next-generation data center applies a software-defined everything (SDx) discipline in a traditional, hardware-centric business to gain business advantage.

NetApp® NetApp SolidFire® Element® OS is the storage operating system for the next-generation data center, providing all the features you demand from primary storage—enterprise-grade reliability, all-flash performance, secure multitenancy, and more—in an innovative, automated architecture that delivers unmatched scalability with guaranteed predictable storage performance.


The relentless pace of business change means you need maximum flexibility to adapt to any workload on the fly. With Element OS storage software, you can dynamically scale storage resources to meet those ever-shifting, unpredictable business and application demands.

Element OS allows for nondisruptive system expansion with instant resource availability. No more multiyear capacity and performance planning. Start with exactly what you require and scale your storage infrastructure in a granular fashion over time. Each new node delivers a precise amount of additional performance and capacity for a predictable pattern of scalability. Data is automatically load-balanced in the background across all nodes in the cluster, maintaining even utilization as the system grows.

Forget forklift upgrades. Element OS lets you simply add new nodes into an established cluster. Old nodes are removed and retired on your schedule, not your vendors’. You have nothing to migrate, no interruptions, and no settings to change. The NetApp SolidFire scale-out architecture makes sure that there’s plenty of horsepower to reduce and rehydrate data, regardless of performance and capacity demands placed on the system. With Element OS, infrastructure managers can easily allocate, manage, and guarantee storage performance natively from each of these orchestration layers, creating efficiencies that actually improve with scale, not vice versa.


The key to making sure of the system performance needed in mixed workload environments is guaranteed storage quality of service (QoS), and Element OS delivers. Its fine-grained performance control for every workload makes sure of application predictability and allows for meaningful consolidation.

Element OS lets you allocate and manage performance independently from capacity, making sure of predictable performance to every application you run. Forget adding capacity to realize unpredictable performance gains. Each storage volume within a NetApp SolidFire system can be allocated a precise amount of capacity and performance, both of which can be changed on the fly without migrating data or interrupting I/O.

This ability means you can guarantee firm performance SLAs for applications, workloads, and tenants across your infrastructure, a key differentiator for cloud service providers and enterprise clouds alike. With Element OS, your NetApp SolidFire system can host a broad range of performance-sensitive and business-critical applications. You can offer performance SLAs to internal or external customers and facilitate the migration of applications to a more cost-effective and predictable storage infrastructure.

Always-on efficiencies maximize utilization of resources, reduce your data center footprint, and lower operational costs. Embedded global data deduplication techniques, multilayer data compression, and granular thin provisioning solve traditional storage deficiencies on the fly to make flash at scale an economic reality, all while delivering superior performance.


In large storage deployments, automation is the key to operational efficiency. By automating complex storage management tasks, orchestrating workflows, and delivering deep management integration, you can efficiently satisfy your service delivery needs and focus on driving your business forward.

Element OS management frameworks provide both an intuitive web-based user interface and a robust REST-based API to automate every aspect of storage provisioning, management, and reporting. Whether you build your own management framework or use an off-the-shelf management stack, our API makes automating storage management simple and straightforward.

Deep integration with industry-leading virtualization and cloud platforms helps minimize your development time and overhead, which enables more complete and agile solutions. Standard tools and integrations coupled with ecosystem plug-ins make direct management seamless.

For VMware environments, Element OS integrates seamlessly into VAAI, VASA, VVols, and vRealize, the tools you already use to automate your VMware infrastructure. And Element OS API functionality has been integrated with the OpenStack, CloudStack, Flexiant, and OnApp frameworks to simplify block storage integration and automation.


As with any enterprise storage, your data’s protection should always be forefront. Element OS software delivers ironclad data assurance using a resilient, self-healing architecture that reduces operational overhead and risk. Its patent-pending Helix data protection can absorb multiple concurrent faults across all levels of the solution without affecting application performance.

Recovering from a failure takes only minutes. In a failure event, each drive in the system redistributes a small percentage of its data in parallel to the free space on all remaining drives. Failure recovery requires no operator intervention, eliminating the fire drills common with traditional RAID-based architectures.

Built-in real-time replication, consistent group Snapshot™ copies, and integration with VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) provide a comprehensive set of features that make sure of end-to-end system integrity. Seamless integration with thirdparty backup applications and any S3 or SWIFT-compatible system makes it easier to create and execute a comprehensive disaster recovery strategy, allowing business operations to continue without impact.

Element OS provides unmatched opportunity to protect your data with SnapMirror replication. Move your data across the NetApp Data Fabric from an Element OS platform to an ONTAP enabled platform for DR. NetApp SolidFire customers can leverage AFF or FAS storage to protect against storage outages, with easy setup of disaster recovery relationships. Data replicated from a NetApp SolidFire system to AFF or FAS is stored in native format, and can benefit from the rich data management capabilities of ONTAP.

Consumption Models

As companies move from traditional storage infrastructure to the next-generation data center, they have more options for consuming storage than ever before. Even if one consumption model can accommodate enterprise’s IT needs today, CIOs should expect to accommodate change over time.

NetApp SolidFire Element OS delivers the greatest flexibility for how you purchase and grow your storage infrastructure, so you can achieve the next-generation data center on your terms. And no matter which model you choose, we have you covered with the only consistent software platform able to provide the same features and functionality across every storage consumption model. Now it’s extremely simple and economical to use Element OS software across an entire data center footprint, precisely aligned with ever-changing data center needs.

NetApp SolidFire All-Flash Array

The NetApp SolidFire all-flash array is a 100% programmable platform that delivers unmatched agility and guaranteed application performance. With the ability to mix node clusters, you can build your private cloud architecture at any scale. NetApp SolidFire is ready to meet your business needs when you need them.

NetApp SolidFire offers innovative pricing options to meet the agility needs of businesses at scale. FlashForward capacity licensing decouples Element OS software from the underlying SF-Series hardware, resulting in a game-changing option for how storage is bought, deployed, and consumed. This model delivers the cost and flexibility benefits of software-only storage without the supply chain, system integration, and support complexity normally associated with this approach.

NetApp HCI

Built on the NetApp SolidFire architecture, NetApp HCI overcomes the limitations of first-generation hyper converged infrastructure (HCI) solutions while simplifying consumption with storage and compute.

FlexPod SF Converged Infrastructure

FlexPod® SF is an innovative converged infrastructure solution built on NetApp SolidFire with the proven performance, agility, and value required to handle increasingly larger enterprise workloads and constantly changing business demands in a single system.

About NetApp

NetApp is the data authority for hybrid cloud. We empower customers to simplify and integrate data management across cloud and on-premises environments to accelerate digital transformation. Together with our partners, we provide a full range of hybrid cloud data services to help global organizations unleash the full potential of their data to expand customer touchpoints, foster greater innovation and optimize their operations.

Direct management of storage, no strings attached:

Include storage management in your automation strategies thanks to NetApp SolidFire’s full-featured API

The days of being held back by limited legacy storage allocation practices or hindered by impossible-to-maintain management workflows are a thing of the past. With a full-featured API, NetApp SolidFire puts our entire all-flash, scale-out storage system at your fingertips for complete, robust integrations. The right storage infrastructure can help you think up the stack when optimizing your applications and workloads. The right storage APIs enable you to automate down the stack. With NetApp SolidFire, APIs are simply the beginning. Now, all complex management tasks can be abstracted from users, rendering storage an easily programmable resource—increasing your capabilities and driving your business.

easily programmable storage

You can Consume Standard Tools

NetApp SolidFire’s deep integration with industryleading virtualization and cloud platforms helps minimize your development time and overhead, which enables more complete and agile solutions. Standard tools and integrations coupled with ecosystem plugins make direct management seamless. Future integrations are simplified when leveraging NetApp SolidFire’s full-featured software development kits.

SDKs Simplify API Consumption

NetApp SolidFire’s software development kits (SDKs) and tools facilitate full automation and simplify integration of NetApp SolidFire features into existing tools, helping you do more, faster.

Robust APIs Control All Features

NetApp SolidFire was built from the ground up to provide a complete API, putting all storage features and functionality at your fingertips. This eliminates errorprone manual tasks and troublesome scripting hacks— and builds an unrivaled foundation for scaled automation.

NetApp SolidFire SDKs enable hundreds of lines of code to be eliminated. That’s hours of work and headaches saved through NetApp SolidFire’s own integrations such as CloudStack. The SDKs provide easy-to-use interfaces and enable you to access and automate all aspects of your NetApp SolidFire cluster more quickly and efficiently, leveraging the tools you already know.

NetApp SolidFire APIs allow for complete integration. 1&1, a world leader in internet service providers, integrates both its management and orchestration environments with NetApp SolidFire’s robust API. NetApp SolidFire’s ease-of-use aligns with 1&1’s mission by simplifying the use of technology and making the cloud dependable, flexible, and accessible to small businesses, enterprises, and resellers alike. 1&1 can now offer its customers two million server configurations in 55 seconds (compared to 1,000 over 10 minutes prior to a NetApp SolidFire implementation). And NetApp SolidFire’s Quality of Service, enabled through the API, allows 1&1 to offer tiers of performance without having to worry about the effects of noisy neighbors.

NetApp SolidFire has long been integrated with virtualization platforms and orchestration tools to enable agile solutions. Ultimate Software chose NetApp SolidFire for its ability to integrate with two different tools: VMware and OpenStack. Integration with VMware’s vSphere client was a must for existing infrastructures, and OpenStack integrations were necessary for building Ultimate Software’s future roadmap. The ability to integrate with PowerShell across Ultimate Software’s ecosystem today and meet the needs of its next generation data center make NetApp SolidFire the perfect fit.


NetApp SolidFire Products
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