How to Map File and Folder Locations to NetApp ONTAP FlexGroup Member Volumes with XCP

The concept behind a NetApp FlexGroup volume is that ONTAP presents a single large namespace for NAS data, while ONTAP handles the balance and placement of files and folders to the underlying FlexVol member volumes, rather than a storage administrator needing to manage that.

I cover it in more detail in:

There’s also this USENIX presentation:

However, while not knowing/caring where files and folders live in your cluster is nice most of the time, there are occasions where you may need to figure out where a file or folder *actually* lives in the cluster – such as if a member volume has a large imbalance of capacity usage and you need to know what files need to be deleted/moved out of that volume. Previously, there’s been no real good way to do that, but thanks to the efforts of one of our global solutions architects (and one of the inventors of XCP), we now have a way and we don’t even need a treasure map. Plastic Treasure Map Party Accessory (1 count) (1/Pkg): Kitchen  & Dining

What is NetApp XCP?

If you’re unfamiliar with NetApp XCP, it’s NetApp’s FREE copy utility/data move that also can be used to do file analytics. There are other use cases, too:

Using XCP to delete files en masse: A race against rm

How to find average file size and largest file size using XCP

Because XCP can run in parallel from a client, it can perform tasks (such as find) much faster in high file count environments, so you’re not sitting around waiting for a command to finish for minutes/hours/days.

Since a FlexGroup is pretty much made for high file count environments, we’d want a way to quickly find files and their locations.

ONTAP NAS and File Handles

In How to identify a file or folder in ONTAP in NFS packet traces, I covered how to find inode information and a little bit about how ONTAP file handles are created/presented. The deep details aren’t super important here, but the general concept – that FlexGroup member volume information is stored in file handles that NFS can read – is.

Using that information and some parsing, there’s a Python script that can be used as an XCP plugin to translate file handles into member volume index numbers and present them in easy-to-read formats.

That Python script can be found here:

FlexGroup File Mapper

How to Use the “FlexGroup File Mapper” plugin with XCP

First of all, you’d need a client that has XCP installed. The version isn’t super important, but the latest release is generally the best release to use.

There are two methods we’ll use here to map files to member volumes.

  1. Scan All Files/Folders in a FlexGroup and Map Them All to Member Volumes
  2. Use a FlexGroup Member Volume Number and Find All Files in that Member Volume

To do this, I’ll use a FlexGroup that has ~2 million files.

::*> df -i FGNFS
Filesystem iused ifree %iused Mounted on Vserver
/vol/FGNFS/ 2001985 316764975 0% /FGNFS DEMO

Getting the XCP Host Ready

First, copy the FlexGroup File Mapper plugin to the XCP host. The file name isn’t important, but when you run the XCP command, you’ll either want to specify the plugin’s location or run the command from the folder the plugin lives in.

On my XCP host, I have the plugin named in /testXCP:

# ls -la | grep
-rw-r--r-- 1 502 admin 1645 Mar 25 17:34
# pwd

Scan All Files/Folders in a FlexGroup and Map Them All to Member Volumes

In this case, we’ll map all files and folders to their respective FlexGroup member volumes.

This is the command I use:

xcp diag -run scan -fmt '"{} {}".format(x, fgid(x))'

You can also include -parallel (n) to control how many processes spin up to do this work and you can use > filename at the end to pipe the output to a file (recommended).

For example, scanning ~2 million files in this volume took just 37 seconds!

# xcp diag -run scan -fmt '"{} {}".format(x, fgid(x))' > FGNFS.txt
402,061 scanned, 70.6 MiB in (14.1 MiB/s), 367 KiB out (73.3 KiB/s), 5s
751,933 scanned, 132 MiB in (12.3 MiB/s), 687 KiB out (63.9 KiB/s), 10s
1.10M scanned, 193 MiB in (12.2 MiB/s), 1007 KiB out (63.6 KiB/s), 15s
1.28M scanned, 225 MiB in (6.23 MiB/s), 1.14 MiB out (32.6 KiB/s), 20s
1.61M scanned, 283 MiB in (11.6 MiB/s), 1.44 MiB out (60.4 KiB/s), 25s
1.91M scanned, 335 MiB in (9.53 MiB/s), 1.70 MiB out (49.5 KiB/s), 31s
2.00M scanned, 351 MiB in (3.30 MiB/s), 1.79 MiB out (17.4 KiB/s), 36s
Sending statistics…

Xcp command : xcp diag -run scan -fmt "{} {}".format(x, fgid(x))
Stats : 2.00M scanned
Speed : 351 MiB in (9.49 MiB/s), 1.79 MiB out (49.5 KiB/s)
Total Time : 37s.

The file created was 120MB, though… that’s a LOT of text to sort through.

-rw-r--r--. 1 root root 120M Apr 27 15:28 FGNFS.txt

So, there’s another way to do this, right? Correct!

If I know the folder I want to filter, or even a matching of file names, I can use -match in the command. In this case, I want to find all folders named dir_33.

This is the command:

# xcp diag -run scan -fmt '"{} {}".format(x, fgid(x))' -match "name=='dir_33'" > dir_33_FGNFS.txt

This is the output of the file. Two folders – one in member volume 3, one in member volume 4:

# cat dir_33_FGNFS.txt
x.x.x.x:/FGNFS/files/client1/dir_33 3
x.x.x.x:/FGNFS/files/client2/dir_33 4

If I want to use pattern matching for file names (ie, I know I want all files with “moarfiles3” in the name), then I can do this using regex and/or wildcards. More examples can be found in the XCP user guides.

Here’s the command I used. It found 440,400 files with that pattern in 27s.

# xcp diag -run scan -fmt '"{} {}".format(x, fgid(x))' -match "fnm('moarfiles3*')" > moarfiles3_FGNFS.txt

507,332 scanned, 28,097 matched, 89.0 MiB in (17.8 MiB/s), 465 KiB out (92.9 KiB/s), 5s
946,796 scanned, 132,128 matched, 166 MiB in (15.4 MiB/s), 866 KiB out (80.1 KiB/s), 10s
1.31M scanned, 209,340 matched, 230 MiB in (12.8 MiB/s), 1.17 MiB out (66.2 KiB/s), 15s
1.73M scanned, 297,647 matched, 304 MiB in (14.8 MiB/s), 1.55 MiB out (77.3 KiB/s), 20s
2.00M scanned, 376,195 matched, 351 MiB in (9.35 MiB/s), 1.79 MiB out (48.8 KiB/s), 25s
Sending statistics…

Filtered: 444400 matched, 1556004 did not match

Xcp command : xcp diag -run scan -fmt "{} {}".format(x, fgid(x)) -match fnm('moarfiles3*')
Stats : 2.00M scanned, 444,400 matched
Speed : 351 MiB in (12.6 MiB/s), 1.79 MiB out (65.7 KiB/s)
Total Time : 27s.

And this is a sample of some of those entries (the file is 27MB):

x.x.x.x:/FGNFS/files/client1/dir_45/moarfiles3158.txt 3
x.x.x.x:/FGNFS/files/client1/dir_45/moarfiles3159.txt 3

I can also look for files over a certain size. In this volume, the files are all 4K in size; but in my TechONTAP volume, I have varying file sizes. In this case, I want to find all .wav files greater than 100MB. This command didn’t seem to pipe to a file for me, but the output was only 16 files.

# xcp diag -run scan -fmt '"{} {}".format(x, fgid(x))' -match "fnm('.wav') and size > 500*M" > TechONTAP_ep.txt 20x - Genomics Architecture/ep20x-genomics-meat.wav 4 Files/ep104-webex.output.wav 5 Files/ep104-mics.output.wav 3 181 - Networking Deep Dive/ep181-networking-deep-dive-meat.output.wav 6 181 - Networking Deep Dive/ep181-networking-deep-dive-meat.wav 2

Filtered: 16 matched, 7687 did not match

xcp command : xcp diag -run scan -fmt "{} {}".format(x, fgid(x)) -match fnm('.wav') and size > 100M
Stats : 7,703 scanned, 16 matched
Speed : 1.81 MiB in (1.44 MiB/s), 129 KiB out (102 KiB/s)
Total Time : 1s.

But what if I know that a member volume is getting full and I want to see what files are in that member volume?

Use a FlexGroup Member Volume Number and Find All Files in that Member Volume

In the case where I know what member volume needs to be addressed, I can use XCP to search using the FlexGroup index number. The index number lines up with the member volume numbers, so if the index number is 6, then we know the member volume is 6.

In my 2 million file FG, I want to filter by member 6, so I use this command, which shows there are ~95019 files in member 6:

# xcp diag -run scan -match 'fgid(x)==6' -parallel 10 -l > member6.txt

 615,096 scanned, 19 matched, 108 MiB in (21.6 MiB/s), 563 KiB out (113 KiB/s), 5s
 1.03M scanned, 5,019 matched, 180 MiB in (14.5 MiB/s), 939 KiB out (75.0 KiB/s), 10s
 1.27M scanned, 8,651 matched, 222 MiB in (8.40 MiB/s), 1.13 MiB out (43.7 KiB/s), 15s
 1.76M scanned, 50,019 matched, 309 MiB in (17.3 MiB/s), 1.57 MiB out (89.9 KiB/s), 20s
 2.00M scanned, 62,793 matched, 351 MiB in (8.35 MiB/s), 1.79 MiB out (43.7 KiB/s), 25s

Filtered: 95019 matched, 1905385 did not match

Xcp command : xcp diag -run scan -match fgid(x)==6 -parallel 10 -l
Stats       : 2.00M scanned, 95,019 matched
Speed       : 351 MiB in (12.5 MiB/s), 1.79 MiB out (65.0 KiB/s)
Total Time  : 28s.

When I check against the files-used for that member volume, it lines up pretty well:

::*> vol show -vserver DEMO -volume FGNFS__0006 -fields files-used
vserver volume      files-used
------- ----------- ----------
DEMO    FGNFS__0006 95120

And the output file shows not just the file names, but also the sizes!

rw-r--r-- --- root root 4KiB 4KiB 18h22m FGNFS/files/client2/dir_143/moarfiles1232.txt
rw-r--r-- --- root root 4KiB 4KiB 18h22m FGNFS/files/client2/dir_143/moarfiles1233.txt
rw-r--r-- --- root root 4KiB 4KiB 18h22m FGNFS/files/client2/dir_143/moarfiles1234.txt

And, if I choose, I can filter further with the sizes. Maybe I just want to see files in that member volume that are 4K or less (in this case, that’s all of them):

# xcp diag -run scan -match 'fgid(x)==6 and size < 4*K' -parallel 10 -l

In my “TechONTAP” volume, I look for 500MB files or greater in member 6:

# xcp diag -run scan -match 'fgid(x)==6 and size > 500*M' -parallel 10 -l

rw-r--r-- --- 501 games 596MiB 598MiB 3y219d techontap/Episodes/Episode 1/Epidose 1 Files/Tech ONTAP Podcast - Episode 1 - AFF with Dan Isaacs v3_1.aif
rw-r--r-- --- 501 games 885MiB 888MiB 3y219d techontap/archive/Prod - old MacBook/Insight 2016_Day2_TechOnTap_JParisi_ASullivan_GDekhayser.mp4
rw-r--r-- --- 501 games 787MiB 790MiB 1y220d techontap/archive/Episode 181 - Networking Deep Dive/ep181-networking-deep-dive-meat.output.wav

Filtered: 3 matched, 7700 did not match

Xcp command : xcp diag -run scan -match fgid(x)==6 and size > 500*M -parallel 10 -l
Stats : 7,703 scanned, 3 matched
Speed : 1.81 MiB in (1.53 MiB/s), 129 KiB out (109 KiB/s)
Total Time : 1s.

So, there you have it! A way to find files in a specific member volume inside of a FlexGroup! Let me know if you have any comments or questions below.

How to identify a file or folder in ONTAP in NFS packet traces

When you’re troubleshooting NFS issues, sometimes you have to collect a packet capture to see what’s going on. But the issue is, packet captures don’t really tell you the file or folder names. I like to use Wireshark for Mac and Windows, and regular old tcpdump for Linux. For ONTAP, you can run packet captures using this KB (requires NetApp login):

How to capture packet traces (tcpdump) on ONTAP 9.2+ systems

By default, Wireshark shows NFS packets like this ACCESS call. We see a FH, which is in hex, and then we see another filehandle that’s even more unreadable. We’ll occasionally see file names in the trace (like copy-file below), but if we need to find out why an ACCESS call fails, we’ll have difficulty:

Luckily, Wireshark has some built-in stuff to crack open those NFS file handles in ONTAP.

Also, check out this new blog:

How to Map File and Folder Locations to NetApp ONTAP FlexGroup Member Volumes with XCP

Changing Wireshark Settings

First, we’d want to set the NFS preferences. That’s done via Edit -> Preferences and then by clicking on “Protocols” in the left hand menu and selecting NFS:

Here, you’ll see some options that you can read more about by mousing over them:

I just select them all.

When we go to the packet we want to analyze, we can right click and select “Decode As…”:

This brings up the “Decode As” window. Here, we have “NFS File Handle Types” pre-populated. Double-click (none) under “Current” and you get a drop down menu. You’ll get some options for NFS, including…. ONTAP! In this case, since I’m using clustered ONTAP, I select ontap_gx_v3. (GX is what clustered ONTAP was before clustered ONTAP was clustered ONTAP):

If you click “OK” it will apply to the current session only. If you click “Save” it will keep those preferences every time.

Now, when the ACCESS packet is displayed, I get WAY more information about the file in question and they’re translated to decimal values.

Those still don’t mean a lot to us, but I’ll get to that.

Mapping file handle values to files in ONTAP

Now, we can use the ONTAP CLI and the packet capture to discern exactly what file has that ACCESS call.

Every volume in ONTAP has a unique identifier called a “Master Set ID” (or MSID). You can see the volume’s MSID with the following diag priv command:

cluster::*> vol show -vserver DEMO -volume vol2 -fields msid
vserver volume  msid
------- ------- -----------
DEMO    vol2    2163230318

If you know the volume name you’re troubleshooting, then that makes life easier – just use find in the packet details.

If you don’t, the MSID can be found in a packet trace in the ACCESS reply as the “fsid”:

You can then find the volume name and exported path with the MSID in the ONTAP CLI with:

cluster::*> set diag; vol show -vserver DEMO -msid  2163230318 -fields volume,junction-path
vserver volume  junction-path
------- ------- ----------- 
DEMO    vol2    /vol2 

File and directory handles are constructed using that MSID, which is why each volume is considered a distinct filesystem. But we don’t care about that, because Wireshark figures all that out for us and we can use the ONTAP CLI to figure it out as well.

The pertinent information in the trace as it maps to the files and folders are:

  • Spin file id = inode number in ONTAP
  • Spin file unique id = file generation number
  • File id = inode number as seen by the NFS client

If you know the volume and file or folder’s name, you can easily find the inode number in ONTAP with this command:

cluster::*> set advanced; showfh -vserver DEMO /vol/vol2/folder
Vserver                Path
---------------------- ---------------------------
DEMO                   /vol/vol2/folder
flags   snapid fileid    generation fsid       msid         dsid
------- ------ --------- ---------- ---------- ------------ ------------
0x8000  0      0x658e    0x227ed312 -          -            0x1639

In the above, the values are in hex, but we can translate with a hex converter, like this one:

So, for the values we got:

  • file ID (inode) 0x658e = 25998
  • generation ID 0x227ed312 = 578736914

In the trace, that matches up:

Finding file names and paths by inode number

But what happens if you don’t know the file name and just have the information from the trace?

One way is to use the nodeshell level command “inodepath.”

::*> node run -node node1 inodepath -v files 15447
Inode 15447 in volume files (fsid 0x142a) has 1 name.
Volume UUID is: 76a69b93-cc2f-11ea-b16f-00a098696eda
[ 1] Primary pathname = /vol/files/newapps/user1-file-smb

This will work with a FlexGroup volume as well, provided you know the node and the member volume where the file lives (see “How to Map File and Folder Locations to NetApp ONTAP FlexGroup Member Volumes with XCP” for a way to figure that info out).

::*> node run -node node2 inodepath -v FG2__0007 5292
Inode 5292 in volume FG2__0007 (fsid 0x1639) has 1 name.
Volume UUID is: 87b14652-9685-11eb-81bf-00a0986b1223
[ 1] Primary pathname = /vol/FG2/copy-file-finder

There’s also a diag privilege command in ONTAP for that. The caveat is it can be dangerous to run, especially if you make a mistake in running it. (And when I say dangerous, I mean best case, it hangs your CLI session for a while; worst case, it panics the node.) If possible, use inodepath instead.

Here’s how we could use the volume name and inode number to find the file name. For a FlexVol volume, it’s simple:

cluster::*> vol explore -format inode -scope volname.inode -dump name

For example:

cluster::*> volume explore -format inode -scope files.15447 -dump name

With a FlexGroup volume, however, it’s a little more complicated, as there are member volumes to take into account and there’s no easy way for ONTAP to discern which FlexGroup member volume has the file, since ONTAP inode numbers can be reused in different member volumes. This is because the file IDs presented to NFS clients are created using the inode numbers and things like the member volume’s MSID (which is different than the FlexGroup’s MSID).

To make this happen with volume explore, we’d be working in reverse – listing the contents of the volume’s files/folders, then using the inode number of the parent folder, listing those, etc. With high file count environments, this is basically an impossibility.

In that case, we’d need to use an NFS client to discover the file name associated with the inode number in question.

From the client, we have two commands to find an inode number for a file. In this case we know the file’s location and name:

# ls -i /mnt/client1/copy-file-finder
4133624749 /mnt/client1/copy-file-finder
#stat copy-file-finder
File: ‘copy-file-finder’
Size: 12 Blocks: 0 IO Block: 1048576 regular file
Device: 2eh/46d Inode: 4133624749 Links: 1
Access: (0555/-r-xr-xr-x) Uid: ( 1102/ prof1) Gid: (10002/ProfGroup)
Access: 2021-04-14 11:47:45.579879000 -0400
Modify: 2021-04-14 11:47:45.588875000 -0400
Change: 2021-04-14 17:34:07.364283000 -0400
Birth: -

In a packet trace, that inode number is “fileid” and found in REPLY calls, such as GETATTR:

If we only know the inode number (as if we got it from a packet trace), we can use the number on the client to find the file name. One way is with “find”:

# find /path/to/mountpoint -inum <inodenumber>

For example:

# find /mnt/client1 -inum 4133624749

“find” can take a while – especially in a high file count environment, so we could also use XCP.

# xcp -l -match 'fileid== <inodenumber>' server1:/export

In this case:

# xcp -l -match 'fileid== 4133624749' DEMO:/FG2
XCP 1.6.1; (c) 2021 NetApp, Inc.; Licensed to Justin Parisi [NetApp Inc] until Tue Jun 22 12:34:48 2021

r-xr-xr-x --- 1102 10002 12 0 12d23h FG2/copy-file-finder

Filtered: 8173 did not match

Xcp command : xcp -l -match fileid== 4133624749 DEMO:/FG2
Stats : 8,174 scanned, 1 matched
Speed : 1.47 MiB in (2.10 MiB/s), 8.61 KiB out (12.3 KiB/s)
Total Time : 0s.

Hope this helps you find files in your NFS filesystem! If you have questions or comments, leave them below.

How pNFS could benefit cloud architecture

** Edited on April 2, 2021 **
Funny story about this post. Someone pointed out I had some broken links, so I went in and edited the links. When I clicked “publish” it re-posted the article, which was actually a pointer back to an old DatacenterDude article I wrote from 2015 – which no longer exists. So I started getting *more* pings about broken links and plenty of people seemed to be interested in the content. Thanks to the power of the Wayback Machine, I was able to resurrect the post and decided to do some modernization while I was at it.

Yesterday, I was speaking with a customer who is a cloud provider. They were discussing how to use NFSv4 with Data ONTAP for one of their customers. As we were talking, I brought up pNFS and its capabilities. They were genuinely excited about what pNFS could do for their particular use case. In the cloud, the idea is to remove the overhead of managing infrastructure, so most cloud architectures are geared towards automation, limiting management, etc. In most cases, that’s great, but for data locality in NAS environments, we need a way to make those operations seamless, as well as providing the best possible security available. That’s where pNFS comes in.


So, let’s talk about what pNFS is and in what use cases you may want to use it.

What is pNFS?

pNFS is “parallel NFS,” which is a little bit of a misnomer in ONTAP, as it doesn’t do parallel reads and writes across single files (i.e., striping). In the case of pNFS on Data ONTAP, NetApp currently supports file-level pNFS, so the object store would be a flexible volume on an aggregate of physical disks.

pNFS in ONTAP establishes a metadata path to the NFS server and then splits off the data path to its own dedicated path. The client works with the NFS server to determine which path is local to the physical location of the files in the NFS filesystem via DEVICEINFO and LAYOUTGETINFO metadata calls (specific to NFSv4.1 and later) and then dynamically redirects the path to be local. Think of it as ALUA for NFS.

The following graphic shows how that all takes place.


pNFS defines the notion of a device that is generated by the server (that is, an NFS server running on Data ONTAP) and sent to the client. This process helps the client locate the data and send requests directly over the path local to that data. Data ONTAP generates one pNFS device per flexible volume. The metadata path does not change, so metadata requests might still be remote. In a Data ONTAP pNFS implementation, every data LIF is considered an NFS server, so pNFS only works if each node owns at least one data LIF per NFS SVM. Doing otherwise negates the benefits of pNFS, which is data locality regardless of which IP address a client connects to.

The pNFS device contains information about the following:

  • Volume constituents
  • Network location of the constituents

The device information is cached to the local node for improved performance.

To see pNFS devices in the cluster, use the following command in advanced privilege:

cluster::> set diag
cluster::*> vserver nfs pnfs devices cache show

pNFS Components

There are three main components of pNFS:

  • Metadata server
    • Handles all nondata traffic such as GETATTR, SETATTR, and so on
    • Responsible for maintaining metadata that informs the clients of the file locations
    • Located on the NetApp NFS server and established via the mount point
  • Data server
    • Stores file data and responds to READ and WRITE requests
    • Located on the NetApp NFS server
    • Inode information also resides here
  • Clients

pNFS is covered in further detail in NetApp TRs 4067 (NFS) and 4571 (FlexGroup volumes)

How Can I Tell pNFS is Being Used?

To check if pNFS is in use, you can run statistics counters to check for “pnfs_layout_conversions” counters. If the number of pnfs_layout_conversions are incrementing, then pNFS is in use. Keep in mind that if you try to use pNFS with a single network interface, the data layout conversations won’t take place and pNFS won’t be used, even if it’s enabled. 

cluster::*> statistics start -object nfsv4_1_diag
cluster::*> statistics show -object nfsv4_1_diag -counter pnfs_layout_conversions

Object: nfsv4_1_diag
Instance: nfs4_1_diag
Start-time: 4/9/2020 16:29:50
End-time: 4/9/2020 16:31:03
Elapsed-time: 73s
Scope: node1

    Counter                                                     Value
   -------------------------------- --------------------------------
   pnfs_layout_conversions                                      4053

Gotta keep ’em separated!

One thing that is beneficial about the design of pNFS is that the metadata paths are separated from the read/write paths. Once a mount is established, the metadata path is set on the IP address used for mount and does not move without manual intervention. In Data ONTAP, that path could live anywhere in the cluster. (Up to 24 physical nodes with multiple ports on each node!)

That buys you resiliency, as well as flexibility to control where the metadata will be served.

The data path, however, will only be established on reads and writes. That path is determined in conversations between the client and server and is dynamic. Any time the physical location of a volume changes, the data path changes automatically, without need to intervene by the clients or the storage administrator. So, unlike NFSv3 or even NFSv4, you no longer would need to break the TCP connection to move the path for reads and writes to be local (via unmount or LIF migrations). And with NFSv4.x, the statefulness of the connection can be preserved.

That means more time for everyone. Data can be migrated in real time, non-disruptively, based on the storage needs of the client.

For example, I have a volume that lives on node cluster01 of my cDOT cluster:

cluster::> vol show -vserver SVM -volume unix -fields node
 (volume show)

vserver volume node
------- ------ --------------
SVM     unix   cluster01

I have data LIFs on each node in my cluster:

 cluster::> net int show -vserver SVM
(network interface show)

Logical     Status     Network                       Current       Current Is
Vserver     Interface  Admin/Oper Address/Mask       Node          Port    Home
----------- ---------- ---------- ------------------ ------------- ------- ----
             data1      up/up    cluster01     e0c     true
             data2      up/up      cluster02     e0c     true
2 entries were displayed.

In the above list:

  • will be my metadata path, since that’s where I mounted.
  • will be my data path, as it is local to the physical node cluster02.

When I mount, the TCP connection is established to the node where the data LIF lives:

nfs-client# mount -o minorversion=1 /unix

cluster::> network connections active show -remote-ip
Vserver     Interface              Remote
Name        Name:Local             Port Host:Port              Protocol/Service
---------- ---------------------- ---------------------------- ----------------
Node: cluster02
SVM         data2:2049   

My metadata path is established to cluster02, but my data volume lives on cluster01.

On a basic cd and ls into the mount, all the traffic is seen on the metadata path. (stuff like GETATTR, ACCESS, etc):

83     6.643253    NFS    270    V4 Call (Reply In 85) GETATTR
85     6.648161       NFS    354    V4 Reply (Call In 83) GETATTR
87     6.652024    NFS    278    V4 Call (Reply In 88) ACCESS 
88     6.654977       NFS    370    V4 Reply (Call In 87) ACCESS

When I start I/O to that volume, the path gets updated to the local path by way of new pNFS calls (specified in RFC-5663):

28     2.096043    NFS    314    V4 Call (Reply In 29) LAYOUTGET
29     2.096363       NFS    306    V4 Reply (Call In 28) LAYOUTGET
30     2.096449    NFS    246    V4 Call (Reply In 31) GETDEVINFO
31     2.096676       NFS    214    V4 Reply (Call In 30) GETDEVINFO
  1. In LAYOUTGET, the client asks the server “where does this filehandle live?”
  2. The server responds with the device ID and physical location of the filehandle.
  3. Then, the client asks “what devices to access that physical data are avaiabe to me?” via GETDEVINFO.
  4. The server responds with the list of available devices/IP addresses.


Once that communication takes place (and note that the conversation occurs in sub-millisecond times), the client then establishes the new TCP connection for reads and writes:

32     2.098771  TCP    74     917 > nfs [SYN] Seq=0 Win=14600 Len=0 MSS=1460 SACK_PERM=1 TSval=937300318 TSecr=0 WS=128
33     2.098996       TCP    78     nfs > 917 [SYN, ACK] Seq=0 Ack=1 Win=33580 Len=0 MSS=1460 SACK_PERM=1 WS=128 TSval=2452178641 TSecr=937300318
34     2.099042  TCP    66     917 > nfs [ACK] Seq=1 Ack=1 Win=14720 Len=0 TSval=937300318 TSecr=2452178641

And we can see the connection established on the cluster to both the metadata and data locations:

cluster::> network connections active show -remote-ip
Vserver     Interface              Remote
Name        Name:Local             Port Host:Port              Protocol/Service
---------- ---------------------- ---------------------------- ----------------
Node: cluster01
SVM         data2:2049   
Node: cluster02 
SVM         data2:2049    

Then we start our data transfer on the new path (data path

38     2.099798  NFS    250    V4 Call (Reply In 39) EXCHANGE_ID
39     2.100137       NFS    278    V4 Reply (Call In 38) EXCHANGE_ID
40     2.100194  NFS    298    V4 Call (Reply In 42) CREATE_SESSION
42     2.100537       NFS    194    V4 Reply (Call In 40) CREATE_SESSION

157    2.106388  NFS    15994  V4 Call (Reply In 178) WRITE StateID: 0x0d20 Offset: 196608 Len: 65536
163    2.106421       NFS    182    V4 Reply (Call In 127) WRITE

If I do a chmod later, the metadata path is used (

341    27.268975    NFS    310    V4 Call (Reply In 342) SETATTR FH: 0x098eaec9
342    27.273087       NFS    374    V4 Reply (Call In 341) SETATTR | ACCESS

How do I make sure metadata connections don’t pile up?

When you have many clients mounting to an NFS server, you generally want to try to control which nodes those clients are mounting to. In the cloud, this becomes trickier to do, as clients and storage system management may be handled by the cloud providers. So, we’d want to have a noninteractive way to do this.

With ONTAP, you have two options to load balance TCP connections for metadata. You can use the tried and true DNS round-robin method, but the NFS server doesn’t have any idea what IP addresses have been issued by the DNS server, so as a result, there are no guarantees the connections won’t pile up.

Another way to deal with connections is to leverage the ONTAP feature for on-box DNS load balancing. This feature allows storage administrators to set up a DNS forwarding zone on a DNS server (BIND, Active Directory or otherwise) to forward requests to the clustered Data ONTAP data LIFs, which can act as DNS servers complete with SOA records! The cluster will determine which IP address to issue to a client based on the following factors:

  • CPU load
  • overall node throughput

This helps ensure that any TCP connection that is established is done so in a logical manner based on performance of the phyical hardware.

I cover both types of DNS load balancing in TR-4523: DNS Load Balancing in ONTAP.

What about that data agility?

What’s great about pNFS is that it is a perfect fit for storage operating systems like ONTAP. NetApp and RedHat worked together closely on the protocol enhancement, and it shows in its overall implementation.

In ONTAP, there is the concept of non-disruptive volume moves. This feature gives storage administrators agility and flexibility in their clusters, as well as enabling service and cloud providers a way to charge based on tiers (pay as you grow!).

For example, if I am a cloud provider, I could have a 24-node cluster as a backend. Some HA pairs could be All-Flash FAS (AFF) nodes for high-performance/low latency workloads. Some HA pairs could be SATA or SAS drives for low performance/high capacity/archive storage. If I am providing storage to a customer that wants to implement high performance computing applications, I could sell them the performance tier. If those applications are only going to run during the summer months, we can use the performance tier, and after the jobs are complete, we can move them back to SATA/SAS drives for storage and even SnapMirror or SnapVault them off to a DR site for safekeeping. Once the job cycle comes back around, I can nondisruptively move the volumes back to flash. That saves the customer money, as they only pay for the performance they’re using, and that saves the cloud provider money since they can free up valuable flash real estate for other customers that need performance tier storage.

What happens when a volume moves in pNFS?

When a volume move occurs, the client is notified of the change via the pNFS calls I mentioned earlier. When the file attempts to OPEN for writing, the server responds, “that file is somewhere else now.”

220    24.971992    NFS    386    V4 Call (Reply In 221) OPEN DH: 0x76306a29/testfile3
221    24.981737       NFS    482    V4 Reply (Call In 220) OPEN StateID: 0x1077

The client says, “cool, where is it now?”

222    24.992860    NFS    314    V4 Call (Reply In 223) LAYOUTGET
223    25.005083       NFS    306    V4 Reply (Call In 222) LAYOUTGET
224    25.005268    NFS    246    V4 Call (Reply In 225) GETDEVINFO
225    25.005550       NFS    214    V4 Reply (Call In 224) GETDEVINFO

Then the client uses the new path to start writing, with no interaction needed.

251    25.007448  NFS    7306   V4 Call WRITE StateID: 0x15da Offset: 0 Len: 65536
275    25.007987  NFS    7306   V4 Call WRITE StateID: 0x15da Offset: 65536 Len: 65536

Automatic Data Tiering

If you have an on-premises storage system and want to save storage infrastructure costs by automatically tiering cold data to the cloud or to an on-premises object storage system, you could leverage NetApp FabricPool, which allows you to set tiering policies to chunk off cold blocks of data to more cost effective storage and then retrieve those blocks whenever they are requested by the end user. Again, we’re taking the guesswork and labor out of data management, which is becoming critical in a world driven towards managed services.

For more information on FabricPool:

TR-4598: FabricPool Best Practices

Tech ONTAP Podcast Episode 268 – NetApp FabricPool and S3 in ONTAP 9.8

What about FlexGroup volumes?

As of ONTAP 9.7, NFSv4.1 and pNFS is supported with FlexGroup volumes, which is an intriguing solution.

Part of the challenge of a FlexGroup volume is that you’re guaranteed to have remote I/O across a cluster network when you span multiple nodes. But since pNFS automatically redirects traffic to local paths, you can greatly reduce the amount of intracluster traffic.

A FlexGroup volume operates as a single entity, but is constructed of multiple FlexVol member volumes. Each member volume contains unique files that are not striped across volumes. When NFS operations connect to FlexGroup volumes, ONTAP handles the redirection of operations over a cluster network.

With pNFS, these remote operations are reduced, because the data layout mappings track the member volume locations and local network interfaces; they also redirect reads/writes to the local member volume inside a FlexGroup volume, even though the client only sees a single namespace. This approach enables a scale-out NFS solution that is more seamless and easier to manage, and it also reduces cluster network traffic and balances data network traffic more evenly across nodes.

FlexGroup pNFS differs a bit from FlexVol pNFS. Even though FlexGroup load-balances between metadata servers for file opens, pNFS uses a different algorithm. pNFS tries to direct traffic to the node on which the target file is located. If multiple data interfaces per node are given, connections can be made to each of the LIFs, but only one of the LIFs of the set is used to direct traffic to volumes per network interface.

What workloads should I use with pNFS?

pNFS is leveraging NFSv4.1 and later as its protocol, which means you get all the benefits of NFSv4.1 (security, Kerberos and lock integration, lease-based locks, delegations, ACLs, etc.). But you also get the potential negatives of NFSv4.x, such as higher overhead for operations due to the compound calls, state ID handling, locking, etc. and disruptions during storage failovers that you wouldn’t see with NFSv3 due to the stateful nature of NFSv4.x.

Performance can be severely impacted with some workloads, such as high file count workloads/high metadata workloads (think EDA, software development, etc). Why? Well, recall that pNFS is parallel for reads and writes – but the metadata operations still use a single interface for communication. So if your NFS workload is 80% GETATTR, then 80% of your workload won’t benefit from the localization and load balancing that pNFS provides. Instead, you’ll be using NFSv4.1 as if pNFS were disabled.

Plus, with millions of files, even if you’re doing heavy reads and writes, that means you’re redirecting paths constantly with pNFS (creating millions of DEVICEINFO and LAYOUTGET calls), which may prove more inefficient than simply using NFSv4.1 without pNFS.

pNFS also would need to be supported by the clients you’re using, so if you want to use it for something like VMware datastores, you’re out of luck (for now). VMware currently supports NFSv4.1, but not pNFS (they went with session trunking, which ONTAP does not currently support).

File-based pNFS works best with workloads that do a lot of sequential IO, such as databases, Hadoop/Apache Spark, AI training workloads, or other large file workloads, where reads and writes dominate the IO.

What about the performance?

In TR-4067, I did some basic performance testing on NFSv3 vs. NFSv4.1 for those types of workloads and the results were that pNFS stacked up nicely with NFSv3.

These tests were done using dd in parallel to simulate a sequential I/O workload. This isn’t intended to show the upper limits of the system (I used an AFF 8040 and some VM clients with low RAM and 1GB networks), but instead were intended to show an apples to apples comparison of NFSv3 and NFS4.1 with and without pNFS, using different wsize/rsize values. Be sure to do your own tests before implementing in production.

Note that our completion time for this workload using pNFS was a full 5 minutes faster than NFSv3 using a 1MB wsize/rsize value.

Test (wsize/rsize setting)Completion Time
NFSv3 (1MB)15m23s
NFSv3 (256K)14m17s
NFSv3 (64K)14m48s
NFSv4.1 (1MB)15m6s
NFSv4.1 (256K)12m10s
NFSv4.1 (64K)15m8s
NFSv4.1 (1MB; pNFS)10m54s
NFSv4.1 (256K; pNFS)12m16s
NFSv4.1 (64K; pNFS)13m57s
NFSv4.1 (1MB; delegations)13m6s
NFSv4.1 (256K; delegations)15m25s
NFSv4.1 (64K; delegations)13m48s
NFSv4.1 (1MB; pNFS + delegations)11m7s
NFSv4.1 (256K; pNFS + delegations)13m26s
NFSv4.1 (64K; pNFS + delegations)10m6s

The IOPS were lower overall for NFSv4.1 than NFSv3; that’s because NFSv4.1 combines operations into single packets. Thus, NFSv4.1 will be less chatty over the network than NFSv3. On the downside, the payloads are larger, so the NFS server has more processing to do for each packet, which can impact CPU, and with more IOPS, you can see a drop in performance due to that overhead.

Where NFSv4.1 beat out NFSv3 was with the latency and throughput – since we can guarantee data locality, we get benefits of fastpathing the reads/writes to the files, rather than the extra processing needed to traverse the cluster network.

(wsize/rsize setting)
Average Read Latency (ms)Average Read Throughput (MB/s)Average Write Latency (ms)Average Write Throughput (MB/s)Average Ops
NFSv3 (1MB)665427.91160530
NFSv3 (256K)1.47662.911092108
NFSv3 (64K).26952.211108791
NFSv4.1 (1MB)6.562736.81400582
NFSv4.1 (256K)1.47123.211602352
NFSv4.1 (64K).16061.213107809
NFSv4.1 (1MB; pNFS)3.684026.81370818
NFSv4.1 (256K; pNFS)1.18075.215602410
NFSv4.1 (64K; pNFS).18351.914908526
(1MB; delegations)
(256K; delegations)
(64K; delegations)
(1MB; pNFS + delegations)
(256K; pNFS + delegations)
(64K; pNFS + delegations)

For high file count workloads, NFSv3 did much better. This test created 800,000 small files (512K) in parallel. For this high metadata workload, NFSv3 completed 2x as fast as NFSv4.1. pNFS added some time savings versus NFSv4.1 without pNFS, but overall, we can see where we may run into problems with this type of workload. Future releases of ONTAP will get better with this type of workload using NFSv4.1 (these tests were on 9.7).

Test (wsize/rsize setting)Completion TimeCPU %Average throughput (MB/s)Average total IOPS
NFSv3 (1MB)17m29s32%3517696
NFSv3 (256K)16m34s34.5%3728906
NFSv3 (64K)16m11s39%39413566
NFSv4.1 (1MB)38m20s26%1677746
NFSv4.1 (256K)38m15s27.5%1677957
NFSv4.1 (64K)38m13s31%17210221
NFSv4.1 pNFS (1MB)35m44s27%1718330
NFSv4.1 pNFS (256K)35m9s28.5%1758894
NFSv4.1 pNFS (64K)36m41s33%17110751

Enter nconnect

One of the keys to pNFS performance is parallelization of operations across volumes, nodes, etc. But it doesn’t necessarily parallelize network connections across these workloads. That’s where the new NFS mount option nconnect comes in.

The purpose of nconnect is to provide multiple transport connections per TCP connection or mount point on a client. This helps increase parallelism and performance for NFS mounts – particularly for single client workloads. Details about nconnect and how it can increase performance for NFS in Cloud Volumes ONTAP can be found in the blog post The Real Baseline Performance Story: NetApp Cloud Volumes Service for AWS. ONTAP 9.8 offers official support for the use of nconnect with NFS mounts, provided the NFS client also supports it. If you would like to use nconnect, check to see if your client version provides it and use ONTAP 9.8 or later. ONTAP 9.8 and later supports nconnect by default with no option needed.

Client support for nconnect varies, but the latest RHEL 8.3 release supports it, as do the latest Ubuntu and SLES releases. Be sure to verify if your OS vendor supports it.

Our Customer Proof of Concept lab (CPOC) did some benchmarking of nconnect with NFSv3 and pNFS using a sequential I/O workload on ONTAP 9.8 and saw some really promising results.

  • Single NVIDIA DGX-2 client
  • Ubuntu 20.04.2
  • NFSv4.1 with pNFS and nconnect
  • AFF A400 cluster
  • NetApp FlexGroup volume
  • 256K wsize/rsize
  • 100GbE connections
  • 32 x 1GB files

In these tests, the following throughput results were seen. Latency for both were sub 1ms.

NFSv310.2 GB/s
NFSv4.1/pNFS21.9 GB/s
Both NFSv3 and NFSv4.1 used nconnect=16

In these tests, NFSv4.1 with pNFS doubled the performance for the sequential read workload at 250us latency. Since the files were 1GB in size, the reads were almost entirely from the controller RAM, but it’s not unreasonable to see that as the reality for a majority of workloads, as most systems have enough RAM to see similar results.

David Arnette and I discuss it a bit in this podcast:

Episode 283 – NetApp ONTAP AI Reference Architectures

Note: Benchmark tests such as SAS iotest will purposely recommend setting file sizes larger than the system RAM to avoid any caching benefits and instead will measure the network bandwidth of the transfer. In real world application scenarios, RAM, network, storage and CPU are all working together to create the best possible performance scenarios.

pNFS Best Practices with ONTAP

pNFS best practices in ONTAP don’t differ much from normal NAS best practices, but here are a few to keep in mind. In general:

  • Use the latest supported client OS version.
  • Use the latest supported ONTAP patch release.
  • Create a data LIF per node, per SVM to ensure data locality for all nodes.
  • Avoid using LIF migration on the metadata server data LIF, because NFSv4.1 is a stateful protocol and LIF migrations can cause brief outages as the NFS states are reestablished.
  • In environments with multiple NFSv4.1 clients mounting, balance the metadata server connections across multiple nodes to avoid piling up metadata operations on a single node or network interface.
  • If possible, avoid using multiple data LIFs on the same node in an SVM.
  • In general, avoid mounting NFSv3 and NFSv4.x on the same datasets. If you can’t avoid this, check with the application vendor to ensure that locking can be managed properly.
  • If you’re using NFS referrals with pNFS, keep in mind that referrals establish a local metadata server, but data I/O still redirect. With FlexGroup volumes, the member volumes might live on multiple nodes, so NFS referrals aren’t of much use. Instead, use DNS load balancing to spread out connections.

Drop any questions into the comments below!

Behind the Scenes – Episode 263: Virtualization in ONTAP – Fall 2020 Update

Welcome to the Episode 263, part of the continuing series called “Behind the Scenes of the NetApp Tech ONTAP Podcast.”


This week, NetApp ONTAP Virtualization PM Karl Konnerth (@konnerth) and Virtualization TME Chance Bingen (@CB8MyDataCenter) join me to discuss the latest updates to ONTAP for VMware virtualization integration, as well as what sessions they recommend for NetApp Insight 2020.

For the VMware in ONTAP Best Practices TR, see here:

TR-4597: VMware vSphere with ONTAP

Check out the virtualization sessions here:

NetApp Insight 2020 Session Catalog

Podcast Transcriptions

If you want an AI transcribed copy of the episode, check it out here (just set expectations accordingly):

Episode 263: Virtualization in ONTAP – Fall 2020 Update – Transcript

Just use the search field to look for words you want to read more about. (For example, search for “storage”)


Or, click the “view transcript” button:


Be sure to give us feedback on the transcription in the comments here or via! If you have requests for other previous episode transcriptions, let me know!

Tech ONTAP Community

We also now have a presence on the NetApp Communities page. You can subscribe there to get emails when we have new episodes.

Tech ONTAP Podcast Community


Finding the Podcast

You can find this week’s episode here:

You can also find the Tech ONTAP Podcast on:

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:

Updated FlexGroup Technical Reports now available for ONTAP 9.7!

ONTAP 9.7 is now available, so that means the TRs need to get a refresh.


There are some new features in ONTAP 9.7 for FlexGroup volumes, including:

The TRs cover those features, and there are some updates to other areas that might not have been as clear as they could have been. I also added some new use cases.

Also, check out the newest FlexGroup episode of the Tech ONTAP Podcast:

Behind the Scenes: Episode 219 – FlexVol to FlexGroup Conversion

TR Update List

Here’s the list of FlexGroup TRs that have been updated for ONTAP 9.7:

TR-4678: Data Protection and Backup – FlexGroup volumes

This covers backup and DR best practices/support for FlexGroup volumes.

TR-4557: FlexGroup Volume Technical Overview

This TR is a technical overview, which is intended just to give information on how FlexGroups work.

TR-4571-a is an abbreviated best practice guide for easy consumption.

TR-4571: FlexGroup Best Practice Guide

This is the best practices TR and also offers information on new features, including details on FlexVol to FlexGroup convert!

Most of these updates came from feedback and questions I received. If you have something you want to see added to the TRs, let me know!

Behind the Scenes: Episode 209 – Designing an End-to-End Genomics Solution Using NetApp

Welcome to the Episode 209, part of the continuing series called “Behind the Scenes of the NetApp Tech ONTAP Podcast.”

This week on the podcast, we talk genomics and how to design an end to end solution using NetApp products across the portfolio with Cloud Solution Architect Florian Fledhaus (@flfeld). 

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:

Updated FlexGroup Technical Reports now available for ONTAP 9.6!

ONTAP 9.6 is now available, so that means the TRs need to get a refresh.


There are some new features in ONTAP 9.6 for FlexGroup volumes, including:

  • Elastic Sizing
  • MetroCluster support
  • SMB CA shares
  • FlexGroup rename/shrink

The TRs cover those features, and there are some updates to other areas that might not have been as clear as they could have been. I also added some new use cases.

Also, check out the newest FlexGroup episode of the Tech ONTAP Podcast:

TR Update List

Here’s the list of FlexGroup TRs that have been updated for ONTAP 9.6:

TR-4678: Data Protection and Backup – FlexGroup volumes

This covers backup and DR best practices/support for FlexGroup volumes.

TR-4557: FlexGroup Volume Technical Overview

This TR is a technical overview, which is intended just to give information on how FlexGroups work.

TR-4571-a is an abbreviated best practice guide for easy consumption.

TR-4571: FlexGroup Best Practice Guide

This is the best practices TR and also offers:

  • More detailed information about high file count environments and directory structure
  • More information about maxdirsize limits
  • Information on effects of drive failures
  • Workarounds for lack of NFSv4.x ACL support
  • Member volume count considerations when dealing with small and large files
  • Considerations when deleting FlexGroup volumes (and the volume recovery queue)
  • Clarifications on requirements for available space in an aggregate
  • System Manager support updates

Most of these updates came from feedback and questions I received. If you have something you want to see added to the TRs, let me know!

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: