By Aswin Vasudevan, Sr. Solutions Architect – AWS
     Sahil Thapar, Principal Architect – AWS
     Michael Shaul, Principal Architect – NetApp

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) has become the most effective software delivery model in use today, and cloud’s on-demand resources have made it possible for SaaS providers to increase the pace of build and deployment. It’s key to use the right cloud architecture to ensure high availability and resiliency while managing efficiency and service-level agreements (SLAs).

The SaaS build and delivery pace is dependent to a large extent on the selection of data layer services. Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP is fully managed shared storage built on NetApp’s popular ONTAP file system. It offers enterprise-grade storage on Amazon Web Services (AWS) with built-in data management capabilities that can meet the stringent performance requirements of SaaS delivery in the cloud.

In this post, we will look at how Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP can ease the complexity of managing, deploying, and operating the data layer of your SaaS service, while abstracting complex processes to support data availability, data protection, data security,  compliance, and cost efficiency and sustainability.

NetApp is an AWS Specialization Partner and AWS Marketplace Seller that delivers cloud storage and data services for protection, security, classification, and observability.

SaaS in the Cloud: Data-Related Challenges

Listed below are some common data-related challenges faced while SaaS applications are being developed in the cloud.

  • Keeping data isolated between tenants: Strong data isolation between tenants is one of the foundational principles of all SaaS applications. You must be able to safeguard the interests of individual tenants while delivering acceptable levels of performance, scalability, and high availability. These complicated factors make data segmentation at scale a major challenge, even more so when your application’s data footprint grows with increased usage
  • Increased storage costs: Since cloud resources are delivered on a pay-as-you-go model, a high rate of storage consumption will drive up your total cost of operations. While your storage needs to be agile to support the fast pace of your application development, it also has to be efficient to keep costs in check.
  • Data-heavy containerized applications: SaaS developers lean towards microservices-based architectures that are deployed in containers. The challenge is that most SaaS applications are also stateful. That means their data needs to persist even after the container is deleted. The attached data volumes used by containers need to be persistent and highly available, without adding additional bottlenecks and complexities.
  • Compliance with strict data protection requirements: Enterprise-level SaaS applications often have to comply with strict data protection requirements for their users. The necessary guardrails need to be in place to meet the specific requirements of your customers.
  • Managing stateful workloads with agility: SaaS applications deployed in stateful containers need agility to enable fast-paced development and deployment. For example, hundreds of copies are needed per automated test cycle—taking up a considerable amount of time and storage to create and fit them all in. Doing all that requires agility at the storage layer. You need to be able to spin up dev/test environments on demand—no matter how many are required—without driving up storage costs or taking up considerable amounts of time.

Integrate SaaS Data Layer with FSx for ONTAP

Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP delivers tried-and-tested NetApp ONTAP data management capabilities as part of a fully managed AWS storage service. It can be easily integrated into your application architecture to help you solve the challenges faced by SaaS developers in the cloud.

FSx for ONTAP has a full feature set to address all of your SaaS storage concerns:


FSx for ONTAP provides strong tenant isolation by seamlessly leveraging native AWS capabilities, including virtual private cloud (VPC) network isolation, security groups, access controls, and more. You can also create separate storage volumes and file systems for different tenants to ensure stringent data isolation—a must have for SaaS deployment

Figure 1 – Primary storage for ISV SaaS applications.

Always-On Cost Optimization

FSx for ONTAP includes these cost optimization elements:

  • Storage efficiency features—including thin provisioning, data deduplication, compression, and compaction—reduce your data footprint by up to 70%, which in turn reduces storage costs. These efficiencies are also preserved for remote data copies, such as backup and disaster recovery (DR) copies. They also reduce the amount of data in transit as you replicate, which reduces network transfer costs.
  • Automated data tiering moves infrequently accessed data from the primary SSD-backed FSx for ONTAP tier to less expensive capacity tier.
  • FSx for ONTAP clone copies also helps optimize costs by only consuming storage for the delta and removing the operational costs from full volume copies.

FSx for ONTAP - Storage effeciency features
Figure 2 – Storage efficiency features.

Persistent Storage for Kubernetes and Amazon EKS

Using FSx for ONTAP, you can automatically respond to Kubernetes persistent volume calls with storage that will last beyond the lifespan of the container to support stateful apps.

FSx for ONTAP is also fully integrated with Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) to make managed Kubernetes deployment even easier. Learn more about using FSx for ONTAP to enhance Kubernetes and container capabilities.

FSx for ONTAP and EKS
Figure 3 – FSx for ONTAP and Amazon EKS.

Resilience Through Multi-AZ Deployments

FSx for ONTAP can be deployed in a multi-Availability Zone (AZ) architecture, which helps with zero data loss and resiliency in the event of any AZ failure.

If you’re using stateful containers on Amazon EKS, data in both file and block volumes will remain accessible across AZs. It also addresses the challenge of pods getting stuck while containers are being scaled in another AZ.

Cross-Region Replication for Quick Recovery

NetApp SnapMirror is a highly efficient replication engine and a key data protection feature in FSx for ONTAP. This helps withstand region failure as a copy is kept in secondary region. With this feature you can achieve recovery point objective (RPO) as low as five minutes, with recovery time objectives (RTO) of less than 10 minutes. Plus, all of your existing storage efficiencies stay in place as data replicates between regions, keeping transfers quick and cost effective.

Data Protection Through Snapshots

FSx for ONTAP supports point-in-time volume snapshots that are created instantaneously with minimal storage and performance overheads.

Since NetApp Snapshot copies don’t incur any noticeable storage penalties, developers can create as many snapshots as they want. That can be very helpful in scenarios where you’re rolling out major application updates. This efficiency is also why FSx for ONTAP Snapshot copies offer better data resilience and security when compared to other snapshot options available. Learn more about protecting your data with FSx for ONTAP.

Security and Compliance

FSx for ONTAP data volumes offer Write Once Read Many (WORM) storage via NetApp SnapLock feature. Data volume copies protected with WORM can’t be deleted and they can’t be changed for any duration that you pre-configure.

The immutable nature of WORM data volumes protects SaaS applications from ransomware attacks. Additional security features, including Vscan and FPolicy, help to keep viruses and ransomware infections at bay. Coupled by built-in data encryption at rest and in transit, FSx for ONTAP provides comprehensive data security for SaaS applications in industries with the most stringent compliance requirements.

Agility and Faster Time to Market

The data cloning feature of FSx for ONTAP helps create instant, writable, thin volume clones via NetApp FlexClone. These thin copies consume minimal storage capacity, only adding to your storage consumption for changes made to the clone.

The process is transparent to applications with no performance impact. This helps in creating faster CI/CD pipelines for quick build and release of new SaaS features, delivering faster TTM.

These clones make it possible to create hundreds of clone dev/test environments necessary for your development cycle, with two major upsides:

  • Optimize costs by only consuming minimal storage space.
  • Shorten the time to create copies from hours to seconds

How Arcesium Transformed SaaS Deployment with FSx for ONTAP

Arcesium is a global fintech company providing advanced data, operations, and analytics solutions for asset managers. It provides these solutions both as SaaS offerings and managed services that require constant software delivery.

Arcesium turned to Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP to help speed up its development process. To create copies of its data sets during development, the development team at Arcesium had been copying entire Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) volumes, a process that would take days to complete.

With the help of FSx for ONTAP, Arcesium was able to:

  • Reduce cost and time of dev/test CI/CD pipelines. With thin clone copies created using FlexClone, Arcesium was able to instantly provision data copies that require almost zero storage capacity, meaning there are almost zero additional costs.
  • Thin clones were also responsible for an 80% reduction in the time to refresh the database supporting its SaaS.
  • Configure a highly available storage architecture. Leveraging multiple Availability Zones keeps the SaaS running even if an entire AZ fails.
  • Higher levels of data protection. To protect the data that supports Arcesium’s applications, FSx for ONTAP replicates the data across regions using NetApp SnapMirror for disaster recovery.
  • Overall storage costs from storage efficiencies, storage consumption was cut down by 53%, leading to a 46% overall cost reduction.

Read the full Arcesium success story with FSx for ONTAP >


Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP delivers the enhanced storage capabilities that SaaS applications demand. It augments the native storage features and provides enterprise class resiliency, data protection, security, and cost efficiency.

Try FSx for ONTAP today to level up the SaaS development and delivery experience.


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NetApp is an AWS Specialization Partner that delivers cloud storage and data services for protection, security, classification, and observability.

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