Behind the Scenes: Episode 191 – Commvault Overview

Welcome to the Episode 191, part of the continuing series called “Behind the Scenes of the NetApp Tech ONTAP Podcast.”

This week on the podcast, we invite Commvault to talk about their latest offerings and how they tie in to the NetApp Data Fabric! 

Featured in this podcast: 

Finding the Podcast

You can find this week’s episode here:

Also, if you don’t like using iTunes or SoundCloud, we just added the podcast to Stitcher.

I also recently got asked how to leverage RSS for the podcast. You can do that here:

Our YouTube channel (episodes uploaded sporadically) is here:


ONTAP 9.6RC1 is here!

Spring has barely sprung and already we’re seeing the latest ONTAP release!


ONTAP 9.6 has been announced and it’s chock full of goodness.

For the short overview podcast, check this link out:

For the longer overview, go here:

This time, the prevailing themes are simplicity, security, data protection and storage efficiency. We’ll have a few podcasts centered around some of the new features, as well. They will be available to download in a few weeks, but for now, let’s discuss what’s in it.

What’s new?

Generally speaking, new stuff in ONTAP comes in the following forms:

  • New features
  • Enhanced features

With the 6 month cadence, features are often phased in, with new features being released with stability as the top priority. Feature parity comes in chunks in later releases. Bug fixes are a part of every ONTAP release.

In ONTAP 9.6, there’s actually a new change that doesn’t really fall into the three categories above. Instead, it’s a departure from how ONTAP handled support for releases.

Long Term vs. Short Term

Around ONTAP 9.0, ONTAP adopted the 6 month cadence for releases. A decision was made to make odd numbered/Fall releases “long term” support releases (LTS) and even numbered/Spring releases “short term” support releases (STS). Short term releases would get a shorter runway of official software support than long term releases.

There was an unintended consequence, however – fewer people wanted to use short term releases, even though the short term releases had the same rigorous quality testing and stability as long term releases. “Short term” had negative connotations, and customers didn’t want to face the prospect of being forced to upgrade sooner, even if that upgrade cycle was years after the release.

So, ONTAP 9.6 scraps the short term release. All new ONTAP releases will be considered long term support releases and will have:

  • 3 years full support (technical support, root cause analysis, SW and documentation available online, frequent service updates in year 1)
  • 2 years limited support (technical support, root cause analysis, SW and documentation available online, no service updates)
  • 3 years of self-service support (documentation available online, no technical support from NetApp, no service updates)

New Features

ONTAP 9.6 focuses on upping the game on simplicity in order to help consumers of ONTAP – new and old – provision storage and move in and out of the cloud much easier.

Most of the stuff in ONTAP 9.6 centers around feature enhancements, but there is one main new feature that I think merits discussion…


I cover REST APIs in another blog post, but essentially, ONTAP is adding support for a standard interface that can query or make changes to an ONTAP cluster via normal HTTP GET and PUT requests.


This allows storage administrators to more easily automate routine tasks without needing to use a proprietary model like ZAPI or ONTAP-specific PowerShell cmdlets. REST APIs also offer a performance improvement over ZAPI calls.

Aggregate level encryption

Another new feature in ONTAP 9.6 centers around the ability to encrypt data at rest at the aggregate level. Previously, you could either encrypt data at rest using drive-enabled hardare encryption on NetApp Storage Encryption (NSE) systems or software-based volume level encryption.

With NSE drives, you can encrypt an entire HA pair, but that means everything on that HA pair is encrypted. That provides less flexibility in management and limits your options with regards to which drives you can use in a system. NSE also means a common key for all volumes on the cluster, and thus no separation for tenants on different SVMs.

NetApp Volume Encryption (NVE) gives more granularity in controlling secure data access, but because each volume has its own encryption key, you lose some simplicity (having to generate a key for every new volume) and storage efficiency (unique keys for each volume means aggregate level deduplication doesn’t work with NVE).


Aggregate level encryption provides simplicity by way of setting an encryption once when the aggregate is created and all volumes in the aggregate sharing the same encryption key, and it allows common blocks across all volumes in the aggregate to be deduplicated.

Feature Enhancements – Simplicity and Productivity

This is where most of the ONTAP 9.6 update does its magic – feature enhancements. One of the prevailing enhancements in ONTAP 9.6 is the focus on simplicity and productivity.

System Manager Enhancements – System Manager is getting a bit of an overhaul. For starters, it’s no longer called OnCommand – instead, it has been re-branded as ONTAP System Manager.

ONTAP System Manager also features:

  • Redesigned page views and simpler workflows optimized for use by IT generalists
  • Visualizations of network topology and storage hardware
  • Intelligent capacity reporting of on-premises and cloud usage at a glance
  • Preview “view” version only in ONTAP 9.6 – feedback welcomed, write to:

The preview version can be viewed by clicking on “Try the new experience” in the top left corner:


There are also some improvements added with the new System Manager view.

For capacity, you see combined capacity and efficiency views as soon as you open ONTAP System Manager.

For example:


Performance views in System Manager are getting an update as well. Previously, if you wanted to see system performance in System Manager, you only were given a real-time view of performance that did not capture historical data.

In the new view, we store up to a year of perf data in System Manager for historical views that can help narrow down hard-to-pinpoint performance issues in your ONTAP cluster.


ONTAP System Manager has also streamlined how protocols are managed. ONTAP is one of the only storage systems in the industry that can support SAN and NAS protocols, but managing them in previous System Manager iterations required more clicks.

In the new System Manager view, we have a single splash page:


There’s also a network diagram in the dashboard that gives a breakdown of available ports, LIFs and SVMs.


Expect more to come for System Manager enhancements in future ONTAP releases!

Simplicity doesn’t just mean “make System Manager better,” however. There are a number of other feature enhancements that improve ONTAP simplicity, as well as overall productivity.

FabricPool simplicity – Automatic inactive data reporting and new tiering policy

In ONTAP 9.4, a feature enhancement was added where you could have ONTAP analyze your cold data and report back how much space savings you’d get from enabling FabricPool. In ONTAP 9.6, this functionality is now on by default.


Additionally, a new tiering policy has been added called “all,” which will allow storage administrators to easily tier all data from a volume instantly, without having to wait for the cold data policy to kick in. This comes with some usage guidelines:

  • Use “all” policy only when importing already cold data
    • Or data that will be read sequentially only
  • Don’t use the “all” policy with random read or random read/write workloads
    • Random reads from the cloud tier are slow, and
    • Write updates (overwrites) fragment object storage and increase physical storage consumpition
  • User data is never inserted into the performance tier
    • Reads always come from the cloud tier
  • Storage efficiency savings result from inline data reduction operations only
    • Automatic background deduplication and background scans are not available
  • Backup and DR processes read data from cloud tier

Other FabricPool enhancements include:

  • A FabricPool aggregate can store twice as much data
    • 1:20 performance-to-cloud tier ratio limit removed
  • Subscription licenses are replacing perpetual license for cloud tiering
    • 1- and 3-year license terms offered
    • Term-based licenses provide more customer flexibility and enable OPEX accounting
    • Perpetual license option will be removed from June quote tool
  • SVM-DR support
  • Volume move support without needing to re-tier

FlexGroup simplicity – Rename, shrink, elastic sizing

FlexGroup volumes also got some simplicity enhancements. Starting in ONTAP 9.6, you can rename a FlexGroup without having to re-create it and shrink a FlexGroup volume at the FlexGroup level.

Additionally, elastic sizing provides a way for file writes to complete when a member volume fills up by borrowing space from other member volumes without admin intervention.


For more information, see Sneak Peek! Elastic Sizing for FlexGroup Volumes in ONTAP 9.6.

Feature Enhancements – Data Protection and Security

In addition to simplicity and productivity, ONTAP 9.6 also brings some enhancements to data protection and security.

In-flight encryption support

Both SnapMirror (synchronous and asynchronous) and FlexCache now support TLS 1.2 encryption for communication in-flight. This can help prevent man-in-the-middle attacks and protect data contents from being viewed while being transferred.

Per-tenant/SVM key management

Previously in ONTAP, only one key manager could be used for a cluster. This was not ideal for admins who wanted to host multiple tenants on the same cluster, but provide different key management options to each. In ONTAP 9.6, each SVM can have its own unique key management system (off-box only).


SnapMirror Sync – Additional enhancements

SnapMirror Sync was re-introduced in ONTAP 9.5 and supported only NFSv3 and SAN protocols.  In ONTAP 9.6, support for SMB 2/3.x and NFSv4.x has been added.

Also added:

  • Quota enforcement
  • fpolicy support
  • Synchronous to asynchronous SnapMirror cascades (“cascade” is multiple SnapMirrors of the same volume chained together)
    • Synchronous replication from primary to secondary for DR
    • Asynchronous replication from secondary to tertiary for backup/DR

FlexCache Enhancements

FlexCache was also re-introduced in ONTAP 9.5 and offers a way for storage admins to create site-local caches of volumes to accelerate workloads at remote sites or within the same cluster.


In addition to the aforementioned in-flight encryption, the feature was expanded to add:

  • Qtree and quota enforcement support
  • 100 cache volumes per node
  • Cloud Volumes ONTAP support

MetroCluster over IP Enhancements

MetroCluster over IP allows ONTAP clusters to stretch over a distance of 700km via standard ethernet networks. ONTAP 9.6 adds support for entry level platforms like the A220 and FAS2750, as well as support for shared inter-site links.

Behind the Scenes: Episode 190 – ONTAP 9.6 Hardware Update

Welcome to the Episode 190, part of the continuing series called “Behind the Scenes of the NetApp Tech ONTAP Podcast.”

This week on the podcast, Hardware TME Chris Lueth (clueth@netapp.comjoins us to discuss the latest hardware that’s coming out with the new ONTAP 9.6 release, including the A320, NVMe shelves and new switches! 

Finding the Podcast

You can find this week’s episode here:

Also, if you don’t like using iTunes or SoundCloud, we just added the podcast to Stitcher.

I also recently got asked how to leverage RSS for the podcast. You can do that here:

Our YouTube channel (episodes uploaded sporadically) is here:

Behind the Scenes: Episode 189 – ONTAP 9.6 Overview

Welcome to the Episode 189, part of the continuing series called “Behind the Scenes of the NetApp Tech ONTAP Podcast.”

This week on the podcast, we give you the lowdown on the latest ONTAP 9.6 release with ONTAP Systems Group Vice President Octavian Tanase (@octav), Senior Director of Product Management Jeff Baxter (@baxontap), and Technical Product Marketing Manager Skip Shapiro (! 

Join us as we talk about how ONTAP 9.6 brings more simplicity, productivity, customer use cases, data protection and security to your datacenter. 

Finding the Podcast

You can find this week’s episode here:

Also, if you don’t like using iTunes or SoundCloud, we just added the podcast to Stitcher.

I also recently got asked how to leverage RSS for the podcast. You can do that here:

Our YouTube channel (episodes uploaded sporadically) is here:

Sneak Peek! Elastic Sizing for FlexGroup Volumes in ONTAP 9.6

ONTAP 9.6 is coming soon and I recently posted a sneak peek for REST API support. But REST APIs aren’t the only new feature coming with the release. FlexGroup volumes are getting some new enhancements as well.

These include:

  • Ability to rename a FlexGroup volume
  • Ability to shrink a FlexGroup volume
  • Support for MetroCluster with FlexGroup volumes
  • SMB CA share support

One of the bigger features (albeit more under the radar) is a way for ONTAP to help FlexGroup volumes avoid failed writes to volumes due to being out of space – elastic sizing!

Image result for plastic man vs mr fantastic

Prior to ONTAP 9.6, storage administrators had to be a bit more cognizant of member volume capacity, because if a member volume ran out of space in a FlexGroup volume, the file write would fail. Since files do not stripe across member volumes, a single file could grow over time to cause issues with space allocation.


There are a few reasons a member volume in a FlexGroup might fill up.

  • A single file that exceeds the available space of a member volume is attempted to be written. For example, a 10GB file is written to a member volume with just 9GB available.
  • A file is appended/written to over time and eventually fills up a member volume. For example, if a database resides in a member volume.
  • Snapshots eat into the active file system space available.

FlexGroup volumes do a generally good job at allocating space across member volumes, but if a workload anomaly occurs, it can throw things off. (Like if your volume is mostly a bunch of 4K files but then you zip a lot of them up and create a giant single file).

Remediation of this problem is generally growing volumes or deleting data. But usually, admins won’t notice the issue until it’s too late and “out of space” errors have occurred. That’s where Elastic Sizing comes in handy.

Elastic Sizing – An Airbag for your Data

One of our FlexGroup volume developers refers to elastic sizing as an “airbag” in that it’s not designed to stop you from getting into an accident, but it does help soften the landing when it happens.

Image result for airbag

In other words, it’s not going to prevent you from writing large files or from running out of space, but it is going to provide a way for those writes to complete.

Here’s how it works…

  1. When a file is written to ONTAP, the system has no idea how large that file will become. The client doesn’t know. The application usually doesn’t know. All that’s known is “hey, I want to write a file.”
  2. When a FlexGroup volume receives a write request, it will get placed in the best available member based on a variety of factors – such as available capacity, inode count, time since last file creation, member volume performance (new in ONTAP 9.6), etc…
  3. When a file is placed, since ONTAP doesn’t know how big a file will get, it also doesn’t know if the file is going to grow to a size that’s larger than the available space. So, the write is allowed as long as we have space to allow it.
  4. If/when the member volume runs out of space, right before ONTAP sends an error to the client that we’ve run out of space, it will query the other member volumes in the FlexGroup to see if there’s any available space to borrow. If there is, ONTAP will add 1% of the volume’s total capacity (in a range of 10MB to 10GB) to the volume that is full (while taking the same amount from another member volume in the same FlexGroup volume) and then the file write will continue.
  5. During the time ONTAP is looking for space to borrow, that file write is paused – this will appear to the client as a performance issue. But the overall goal isn’t to finish the write fast – it’s to allow the write to finish at all. In most cases, a member volume will be large enough to provide the 10GB increment (1% of 1TB is 10GB), which is often more than enough to allow a file creation to complete. In smaller member volumes, the performance impact could be greater, as the system will need to query to borrow space more often.
  6. The capacity borrowing will maintain the overall size of the FlexGroup – for example, if your FlexGroup is 40TB in size, it will remain 40TB.


Once files are deleted/volumes are grown and space is available in that member volume again, ONTAP will re-adjust the member volumes back to their original sizes to maintain an evenness in space.

Ultimately, elastic sizing helps remove the admin overhead of managing space, as well as worrying so much about the initial sizing/deployment of a FlexGroup. You can spend less time thinking about how many member volumes you need, what size they should be, etc.

When you combine elastic sizing in ONTAP 9.6 with features like autogrow/shrink, then ONTAP can pretty much manage your capacity in most cases and help avoid emergency space issues.

Elastic sizing = new FlexGroup use cases?

Traditionally, FlexGroup volume use cases have mainly been for unstructured NAS data, high file count environments, small files, etc. and I’ve cautioned people against putting larger files into FlexGroup volumes because of the aforementioned issues with large files/files that grow potentially filling up a member volume.

But now, with elastic sizing to mitigate those issues, along with volume autogrow/shrink, the FlexGroup use cases get a bit more expanded and interesting.

Why not put a workload with large files/files that grow on a FlexGroup now? In fact, with SMB support for Continuously Available shares for Hyper-V and SQL server, there is further proof that FlexGroup volumes are becoming more viable solutions for a variety of workloads.

You can find the latest podcast for FlexGroup volumes here:

Behind the Scenes: Episode 188 – FlexGroup Volumes Update

Welcome to the Episode 188, part of the continuing series called “Behind the Scenes of the NetApp Tech ONTAP Podcast.”

This week on the podcast, we deliver a long overdue update to Episode 46 of the Tech ONTAP podcast, where we first covered FlexGroup volumes.

We bring back lead developer Richard Jernigan – as well as Technical Director Dan Tennant – to discuss what’s new, what’s changed and what’s coming down the line for FlexGroup volumes.

Finding the Podcast

You can find this week’s episode here:

Also, if you don’t like using iTunes or SoundCloud, we just added the podcast to Stitcher.

I also recently got asked how to leverage RSS for the podcast. You can do that here:

Our YouTube channel (episodes uploaded sporadically) is here: