NetApp HCI: Some Notes and Maximum Configuration (Unofficial*)

*It’s pretty obvious that a blog with Mongolian yurts in the header picture, is not the official blog of any Enterprise IT organization, still, I always feel like stressing this blog is unofficial (i.e. this stuff is un-vetted, un-peer-reviewed; there’s no one to stop me writing total cr^p.)

I briefly touched on NetApp HCI in my Tech Round Up 22nd June 2017.

Minimum Configuration

From the NetApp HCI Datasheet at (DS for Disk Shelf) the minimum configuration is made up of:

2 x 2-RU 4-Node chassis
4 x Storage nodes
2 x Compute nodes
2 x Open bays for expansion nodes

Image: NetApp HCI Minimum Configuration

A small minimum configuration would have:

2 x 2-RU 4-Node chassis
4 x SMALL Storage nodes
2 x SMALL Compute nodes
2 x Open bays for expansion nodes

The NetApp HCI Visio’s are now available from The physical representation of the minimum configuration is below.

Image: Front View

Image: Rear View

Small/Medium/Large Storage/Compute Nodes

Reading from the datasheet, there’s 3 sizes of storage node, and 3 sizes of compute node:

Storage |           | Effective Block Capacity
Node    | SSDs      | @ 5x - 10x Efficiency
SMALL   | 6 x 480GB | 5.5TB - 11TB
MEDIUM  | 6 x 960GB | 11TB - 22TB
LARGE   | 6 x 1.9TB | 22TB - 44TB

Compute | Cores   | GB Memory
Node    | for VMs | for VMs
SMALL   | 16      | 256
MEDIUM  | 24      | 512
LARGE   | 36      | 768

From this, the small minimum configuration is:

Storage |     |            | Effective Block Capacity
Node    | QTY | SSDs       | @ 5x - 10x Efficiency
SMALL   | 4   | 24 x 480GB | 22TB - 44TB

Compute |     | Cores   | GB Memory
Node    |     | for VMs | for VMs
SMALL   | 2   | 32      | 512

Maximum Configuration

I was looking for what the Maximum size of a NetApp HCI cluster could be - there is no maximum size published. Then I came across this article:

Note: Personally I disagree with Chris Mellor’s view. The storage and compute are all in one box, so it’s hyperconverged end of story (vBlock, Flexpod... get away with being converged by virtue of all components being in the same cabinet). IMHO, the NetApp HCI solution is much better than First Generation HCI solutions where you’d either end up with way too much storage, or way too much compute. If I was being really picky though, it might be nice to be able to add memory for VMs / cores for VMs separately (i.e. so don’t end up with either way too much CPU, or way too much memory), still, that’d make the solution less elegant and more complex.

A couple of quotes from the article:

Rollason: "The HCI storage capabilities exactly match SF AFA scale. The ESX cluster sizes are only limited by ESX maximums. The management software for HCI can manage multiple storage and ESX clusters within the same solution and UI. That combines to allow HCI scale to be in theory limitless."
Rollason: "In real life the thing that would limit the scale of the solution would be VMware vCenter’s maximum capabilities. NetApp HCI architecture has nothing that limits it from continuing to expand in a single solution so long as a vCenter Server can handle it."

So there we have it!

The VMware vSphere 6.0 Configuration Maximums lists a maximum of 1000 Hosts per vCenter Server.
The VMware vSphere 6.5 Configuration Maximums lists a maximum of 2000 Hosts per vCenter Server.
The NetApp HWU has SolidFire having 100 max nodes per cluster.

A single NetApp HCI solution could scale up to 2000 compute nodes (with vSphere 6.5), and as many up-to 100 storage node clusters as the hosts could support.

1000 large compute nodes:

Compute |      | Cores   | GB Memory
Node    | QTY  | for VMs | for VMs
LARGE   | 1000 | 36’000  | 768’000

100 large storage nodes:

Storage |     |             | Effective Block Capacity
Node    | QTY | SSDs        | @ 5x - 10x Efficiency
LARGE   | 100 | 600 x 1.9TB | 2200TB - 4400TB

Other Links

Other Links (SolidFire Specific)

On the NetApp Field Portal and okay to share:

Technical Reports:

NetApp HCI: Enterprise-Scale HyperConverged Infrastructure Solution

And finally!

NetApp HCI is designed on the foundation of SolidFire and VMware ESXi - industry proven storage software and industry proven virtualization software. The only new element is the deployment engine.

Image: NetApp HCI: Enterprise-Scale Hyper Converged Infrastructure Solution


  1. In practice, whilst SolidFire can technically scale to 100 nodes, I understand that SolidFire has only been tested up to 40 nodes (which is still way more than most companies will every need). There are production SolidFire clusters bigger than 40 nodes. At the time of writing this post, NetApp HCI hadn't been out long, so perhaps we will see some upper limits imposed in the future (the numbers will still be massive though).


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