TECH::vSphere 6.0 – NFS thoughts

DISCLAIMER: I work for NetApp. However, I don’t speak for NetApp. These are my own views. šŸ™‚

I’m a tad late to the party here, as there have already been numerous blogs about what’s new in vSphere 6.0, etc. I haven’t seen anything regarding what was missing from a NFS perspective, however. So I’m going to attempt to fill that gap.

What new NFS features were added?

Famously, vSphere 6 brings us NFSv4.1. NFSV4.1 is an enhancement of NFSV4.0, which brought the following features:

  • Pseudo/unified namespace
  • TCP only
  • Better security via domain ID string mapping, single firewall port and Kerberos integration
  • Better locking than NFSv3 via a lease-based model
  • Compound NFS calls (i.e., combining multiple NFS operations into a single packet)
  • Better standardization of the protocol, leveraging IETF
  • More granular ACLs (similar to Windows NTFS ACLs)
  • NFS referrals
  • NFS sessions
  • pNFS

I cover NFSv4.x in some detail in TR-4067 and TR-4073. I cover pNFS in TR-4063.

I wrote a blog post a while back on the Evolution of NAS, which pointed out how NFS and CIFS were going all Voltron on us and basically becoming similar enough to call them nearly identical.

vSphere 6.0 also brings the ability to Kerberize NFS mounts, as well as VVOLĀ support. Fun fact: NetApp is currently the only storage vendor with support for VVOLsĀ over NFS.Ā 

Why do these features matter?

As Stephen Foskett correctly pointed out in his blog, adoption of NFSv4.x has been… slow. A lot of reasons for that, in addition to what he said.

  • Performance. NFSv3 is simply faster in most cases now. Though, that narrative is changing…
  • Disruption. NFSv3 had the illusion of being non-disruptive in failover events. NFSv4 is stateful, thus more susceptible to interruptions, but its locking makes it less susceptible to data loss/corruption in failover events (both network and storage).
  • Infrastructure. It’s a pain in the ass to add name services to an existing enterprise environment to ensure proper ID string mapping.
  • Disdain for change. No one wants to be the “early adopter” in a production environment.

However, more and more applications are recommending NFSv4.x. TIBCO is one. IBM MQueue is another. Additionally, there is a greater focus on security with recent data breaches and hacks, so storage administrators will need to start filling check boxes to be compliant with new security regulations. NFSv4.x features (Kerberos, domain ID, limited firewall ports to open) will likely be on that list. And now, vSphere offers NFSv4.1 with some limited features. What this means for the NFS protocol is that more people will start using it. And as more people start using it, the open-source-ness will start to kick in and the protocol will improve.

As for Kerberos, one of the questions you may be asking, or have heard ask is, “why the heck do I want to Kerberize my NFS datastore mount?” Doesn’t my export policy rule secure it enough?

Well, how easy is it to change an IP address of an ESXi server? How easy is it to create a user? That’s really all you need to mount NFSv3. However, Kerberos requires a user name and password, interaction with a KDC, ticket exchange, etc. So, it’s much more secure.

As for VVOLs, they could be a game changer in the world of software-defined storage.

Check out the following:

Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) On Horizon to Deliver Software Defined Storage for vSphere

The official VMware VVOL blog

vMiss also has a great post on VVOLs on her blog.

Also, NetApp’s ESX TME Peter Learmonth (@titaniumlegs on Twitter) has a video on it:

That’s great and all… but what’s missing?

While it’s awesome that VMware is attempting to keep the NFS stack up to date by adding NFSv4.1 and Kerberos, it just felt a little… incomplete.

For one Kerberos was added, but only with DES support. This is problematic on a few levels. For one, DES is old and laughably weak as far as Kerberos enctypes go. DES was cracked in less than a day… in 2008. If they were going to add Kerberos, why not AES, which is the NIST standard? Were they concerned about performance? AES has been known to be a bit of a hog. If that was a concern, though, why not implement the Intel AES CPU?

As for NFSv4.1… WHERE IS PNFS?? pNFS is an ideal protocol for what virtual machines do – open once, stream reads and writes. Not a ton of metadata. Mobile and agile with storage VMotionĀ and volume moves in clustered Data ONTAP. No need to use up a ton of IP addresses (one per node, per datastore). Most storage operations via NFSĀ would be simplified and virtually transparent with pNFS. Hopefully they add that one soon.

Ultimately, an improvement

I’m glad that VMware added some NFS improvements. It’s a step in the right direction. And they certainly beefed up the capabilities of vSphere 6 with added hardware support. Some of those numbers… monstrous! Hopefully they continue the dedication to NFS in future releases.

Wait, there’s more?!?

That’s right! In addition to the improvements of vSphere 6.0, there is also VMWare Horizon, which integrates with NetApp’s All-Flash FAS solutions. NetApp All-Flash FASĀ is providesĀ the only all-flash NFS support on the market!

To learn more about it, see this video created by NetApp TME Chris Gebhardt.

You can also see the Shankay Iyer’s blog post here.

Introducing A New Release of VMWare Horizon!

For more info…

What’s New in the VMware vSphere 6.0 Platform

For a snarky rundown on NFSv4.1 and vSphereĀ 6.0, check out Stephen Foskett’s blog.

For some more information on NFS-specific features, see Cormac Hogan’s post.

5 thoughts on “TECH::vSphere 6.0 – NFS thoughts

  1. Pingback: TECH::How to set up Kerberos on vSphere 6.0 servers for datastores on NFS | Why Is The Internet Broken?

  2. Pingback: Why Is the Internet Broken: Greatest Hits | Why Is The Internet Broken?

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