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Last month, NetApp announced the end of availability (EOA) of its HCI platform effective March 2022. 

The announcement covers the H410C compute nodes, H410S storage nodes and the H600 series compute nodes (H610C and H615C). NetApp will provide full software support through March 2025 and full hardware support through March 2027. 

In addition, ONTAP Select on NetApp HCI and Mellanox Technologies switching sold with NetApp HCI will be affected by the EOA announcement. 

While NetApp HCI offers several benefits — predictable performance, the ability to scale on demand, a pay-for-what-you-need model — its quick exit isn't surprising. Many OEMs are shifting away from on-premises, hardware-focused HCI solutions and toward software-defined and cloud-based solutions. 

For NetApp, this means focusing on Astra, its software-defined, application data management service for containers and Kubernetes. 

NetApp's Eric Han, product management vice president, discussed the decision in a Block and Files article.

"The key thing here is we've seen HCI as important in the market when we started, but it's a piece in the market that customers no longer need because it was meant to move people to the [hybrid] cloud and customers can do that without an appliance now," Han said in the article.  

Here are the key takeaways from the announcement: 

  1. Compute nodes will be discontinued. Customers can continue to purchase compute nodes to expand existing deployments through March 2022. After that, they will need to add compute from a third-party source.
  2. Storage is not impacted. The SolidFire portfolio will remain available and supported. Customers can continue to purchase H610 storage nodes and utilize Element software just as they could prior to the announcement.
  3. Customers can still leverage existing management and orchestration tools. NetApp HCI is a disaggregated architecture with compute and storage nodes independent of each other. Customers can switch compute vendors without impacting storage and easily bundle the new compute with existing management and orchestration tools.

What should NetApp HCI customers do next?  

First, don't panic. NetApp is providing a lengthy timeframe — longer than most hardware refresh cycles — before you need to make any major decisions or changes.  

Second, understand your options. 

At WWT, we see two main paths once the NetApp HCI compute nodes retire:  

  1. Replace compute nodes with a third-party option.
  2. Replace both storage and compute nodes for a full system refresh.

The path you choose will depend on your business requirements and how much change your organization can support.  

For example, newer NetApp HCI customers may not have the desire or budget to completely overhaul their system. On the other hand, customers preparing for large-scale digital transformations might find a full refresh makes sense for their future business requirements.   

So how do you decide which option makes most sense for your organization? What are the pros and cons of swapping compute nodes versus planning a full refresh?  

Let's explore the two options below.  

Option 1: Replace compute nodes only  

A key benefit of the EOA announcement is having additional OEM compute node options. 

Previously, NetApp HCI customers were required to use NetApp compute. If you already had an OEM standard in place, then you were forced to switch vendors to use the platform. This often became a sticking point for organizations considering the solution.  

Now customers can bundle their own compute with SolidFire storage and Element software to maintain a unified platform look and feel but with the added value of a multi-vendor approach.  

This option is ideal for customers that like the NetApp HCI platform but were not thrilled to switch away from their OEM standard for compute. You can now bring your own compute while continuing to leverage all the features and functionality of the platform.   

This is also a great fit for existing customers with general-purpose, virtualized workloads. 

Option 2: Plan a full refresh  

Some customers might be thinking, "If I have to switch my compute, why not switch my storage too?"  

It's a valid question but one that should be carefully considered as it requires a much heavier lift and larger investment than the first option.  

If you are planning a large-scale digital transformation, such as a major shift to public cloud or a more software-defined architecture, then HCI may not be the right approach for you any longer. 

Maybe your business requirements have changed since you implemented NetApp HCI and you need a more agile and resilient architecture. Or perhaps you have more SQL servers or Oracle database servers that require a scale-up architecture rather than a scale-out architecture. 

These are just a few reasons why a customer might decide to conduct a full refresh rather than simply replacing compute. 

To determine the right decision for your organization, you must understand where your business currently is, where it's going and whether your current technology can support your future vision and strategy.  

Start charting your path forward 

When you're ready to weigh your options, WWT is here to help. 

Our partnerships with the leading technology manufacturers, including NetApp, Dell and HPE, allow our team to provide expert advice and guidance on navigating the EOA announcement and determining the best approach moving forward. 

By leveraging our Advanced Technology Center (ATC), organizations can also test and compare solutions to ensure complete confidence before purchasing.  

Explore your options with our experts. Request workshop