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6 minute readNetApp Disk Shelves 101

One of the great things about NetApp filers is their ability to easily and efficiently scale out. But NetApp users often come to us not knowing exactly what their options are as far as the disk shelves required to grow their storage.

The good news is, you have several options for scaling capacity. In today’s post, we will go over the different expansion shelves and the use cases they were designed for. So the next time you need to add storage, you’ll be more informed and empowered whether you’re working with NetApp directly, a VAR, or a third-party vendor.

DS4243 Disk Shelf

Supports SATA, SAS, SSD
72TB max capacity
110 lbs (fully loaded)

The DS4243 is the backbone of many NetApp environments, from smaller departmental SANs to large enterprise production environments and is NetApp’s most versatile disk shelf. The DS4243 is 4 rack units high, holds 24 hard drives, and supports requirements from high capacity and storage density to performance and performance density.

If your goal is to maximize capacity, an all SATA configuration is the way to go. The largest SATA drives the DS4243 supports are 3TB, yielding a raw capacity of 72TB. The shelf also supports 1TB and 2TB drives.

If you want to maximize performance, the DS4243 also supports 15K SAS drives. Compatible SAS drives start at 300GB and top out at 600GB, so the maximum space for an all-SAS shelf is 14.4TB raw.

The DS4243 also supports SSD drives, in either all-SSD configurations or mixed configurations with spinning disk. NetApp calls mixed SSD-SATA and SSD-SAS shelves “flash pools” and many shops use them as a cost-effective way to have both high capacity and maximum IOPs in a single shelf. The only SSD size compatible with the DS4243 is the 100GB drive, so the maximum capacity for an all-SSD DS4243 is 2.4TB raw.

Customers often ask if they can mix SAS and SATA in the same DS4243 shelf, and the answer is no. And that goes for all the other disk shelves on this list, as well. You can mix SAS and SSD, or SATA and SSD, but not SAS and SATA together.

DS4246 Disk Shelf

Supports SATA, SAS, SSD
144TB max capacity
110 lbs (fully loaded)

LIke the DS4243, the DS4246 disk shelf strike a balance between performance and capacity. The  DS4246 looks identical to the DS4243, but unlike DS4243, the DS4246 supports NetApp’s 6TB SATA drives, yielding a hefty maximum capacity of 144TB raw.

The DS4246 also has upgraded 6Gbps SAS connections (versus the DS4243’s 3Gbps connections) for higher throughput. Because of its high storage density and SSD compatibility, many NetApp users use the DS4246 in Flash Pool configurations. The following SSD-SATA Flash Pool combinations are supported on DS4246:


DS2246 Disk Shelf

Supports SAS, SSD
38.4TB max capacity
49 lbs (fully loaded)

While the DS4246 is NetApp’s all-SATA shelf offering, the DS2246 is their all-SAS offering. The DS2246 is designed for NetApp users who want a lot of performance is a small space.

The DS2246 holds 24 drives in only 2U of rack space, using 2.5” small form factor drives. It supports all SAS, all SSD, or mixed SAS-SSD configurations. Compared with the DS4246, the DS2246 doubles storage density, increases performance density per unit by 60%, and reduces power consumption by 30% to 50%.

LIke the DS4246, the DS2246 has 6 Gbps, high-throughput SAS connections to your filer. Compatible SAS drive sizes range from 450GB to 1.2TB, and compatible SSD’s range from 200GB to 1.6TB. Mixed SSD-SAS Flash Pool configurations include 200GB SSD + 900GB SAS, as well as 400GB SSD + 1.2TB SAS.

DS4486 Disk Shelf

Supports SATA
288TB max capacity
150 lbs (fully loaded)

The DS4486 is the big boy, NetApp’s highest capacity disk shelf offering. DS4486 was designed for large-scale backups and data consolidations. Data density-wise, this shelf is, by far, the most efficient NetApp disk shelf.

While the DS4486 looks like the DS4246 from the front, the 4486 actually holds a maximum of 48 SATA drives. The drives that go into the DS4486 are tandem 4TB or 6TB SATA, so a single carrier actually contains two drives in a single housing. The downside is, if one of the two drives in a carrier goes down, you need to remove both to replace the failed drive.

Unlike many capacity-optimized disk shelves, the DS4486 can be serviced from the front, and 10 DS4486 shelves in a 42U rack weigh less than 2,000 pounds. Fully maxed out with 48 6TB drives, the DS4486 yields a whopping 288TBs of total storage capacity.

The More You Know

There you have it. Now you know what your NetApp expansion shelf options look like, and you can make a more informed decision on what kind of shelf your project requires. We keep all these shelves in stock, and if you want more help on how to get the most from your NetApp expansions, reach out to one of our NetApp storage specialists or give us a call at (404) 551-4534.

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Reid Smith-Vaniz

by Reid Smith-Vaniz

Reid is the founder and CEO of Reliant Technology and for 14 years has pursued his mission to remove the pain associated with maintaining IT infrastructure. Reid writes on common challenges related to maintaining, servicing, tracking, budgeting, and upgrading technology.

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About Reliant Technology

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