Behind the Scenes Episode 294 – Maintaining Business Operations through Disaster in ONTAP 9.9.1

Welcome to the Episode 294, part of the continuing series called “Behind the Scenes of the NetApp Tech ONTAP Podcast.”


This week, we discuss how SnapMirror Business Continuity (SMBC) and MetroCluster over IP in ONTAP 9.9.1 helps maintain business operations through disasters, as well as when you’d want to use one over the other.

Joining us:

  • Manish Thakur, NetApp Product Manager, MetroCluster and SnapMirror Business Continuity (
  • Cheryl George, NetApp Technical Marketing Engineer, MetroCluster and SnapMirror Business Continuity (

For more information on MetroCluster over IP and SnapMirror Business Continuity:

Podcast Transcriptions

If you want a searchable transcript of the episode, check it out here (just set expectations accordingly):

Episode 294: Maintaining Business Operations through Disaster in ONTAP 9.9.1 – Transcript

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


Be sure to give us feedback (or if you need a full text transcript – Gong does not support sharing those yet) on the transcription in the comments here or via! If you have requests for other previous episode transcriptions, let me know!

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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:

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.

ONTAP 9.5RC1 is available!

There are a few things in life that are certain… death, taxes and a new ONTAP release every 6 months!

ONTAP 9.5 was just officially announced at Insight 2018, and this blog will give you the technical breakdown of all the new goodness. We’ll have a new podcast up soon to cover it as well.

If you want to download and install it, you can find it here:

Also, check out the following podcast episodes for more information:

I also created a shorter, more digestible feature recap here:

If you’re going to be at Insight (Las Vegas or Barcelona), or if you want to review sessions after the event, you can check out the following session:

1214-2 – What’s On Tap in the Next Major Release of NetApp ONTAP

What’s new?

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

  • New features
  • Enhanced features
  • Bug fixes

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.

So, let’s start with…

New Features

ONTAP 9.5 continues the emphasis on the “modern datacenter” with a slew of new features that help enable higher performance and better resiliency, as well as extending your storage stack beyond on-premises and into a true global architecture.

SnapMirror Synchronous

SnapMirror Synchronous adds the ability to replicate – at a volume level – data cross a WAN connection (RTT <10ms – distance of ~150km) with zero Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and near-zero Recovery Time Objective (RTO). This helps address regulatory and industry mandated needs for synchronous replication.


SnapMirror Synchronous will have two different modes available in the initial release.

Full Synchronous

This is the default mode and guarantees zero application data loss between sites by disallowing writes if the SnapMirror Synchronous replication fails for any reason. This provides the “zero RPO” guarantee.

Relaxed Synchronous

Alternatively, relaxed mode allows application writes to continue to a primary site if the SnapMirror Synchronous relationship fails. Once the relationship is able to resume, resync will automatically occur.

In the initial release of SnapMirror Synchronous, NFSv3, iSCSI and FCP will be supported. Licensing will be capacity-based, in addition to the base SnapMirror license.

FlexCache Volumes

One thing I’ve heard fairly often is “how can I serve NAS data across multiple sites while still honoring locking mechanisms?” Previously, the only way to accomplish this was by way of a 3rd party NAS lock orchestrator. Now, in ONTAP 9.5, NAS data can be shared across multiple global sites with performance as if the NAS data was local with FlexCache volumes and provides a true global namespace for ONTAP.


FlexCache volumes are sparsely populated volumes that can be cached on the same cluster or a different cluster as the origin volumes to accelerate data access. FlexCache volumes are created on FlexGroup volumes and can cache reads, writes and metadata.  Writes are currently using write-around for locking orchestration at the origin. FlexCache volumes can also help offload mount points to avoid hot spots. Initially, NFSv3 will be the only supported protocol, but future releases will enable more data protocol support.

BGP routing support

The networking stack in ONTAP is getting a bit of a makeover in ONTAP 9.5 as well. Previously, data LIFs in ONTAP were hosted on a single physical port, which lived on a single physical node. Load balancing was done via layer 2 (L2) hashing, which wasn’t super efficient, as hash collisions would leave ports underutilized or even completely unused! When storage nodes have 40GB and 100GB ports, that can be an expensive waste of resources. Additionally, the L2 architecture meant that additional layer 3 (l3) switches needed to be in place to provide proper network traffic distribution.

ONTAP 9.5 introduces support for L3 routing via the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), which allows ONTAP to automatically load balance traffic based on routing metrics, rather than L2 hashes. Additionally, this allows data LIFs to become Virtual IPs (VIPs) that can live anywhere in the network, which adds better redundancy for IP failover events, and avoids inactive links. This also eliminates the need for L3 switching infrastructure, which reduces overall CapEx and OpEx networking costs.


ONTAP 9.5 is further modernizing the datacenter by modernizing its networking stack.

Logical Space Accounting

ONTAP 9.4 introduced a way to report storage efficiency savings to storage administrators, but to mask those savings to users. For example, if a user is writing to a 10TB volume and 6TB of data has been written to the volume, but storage efficiencies have saved 2TB, then ONTAP can report the actual 6TB of capacity back to users, rather than the 4TB used by way of space savings. This provides storage administrators a way to charge back properly to end users and helps prevent overruns of storage capacity.

ONTAP 9.5 ups the game by integrating logical space accounting into quota enforcement, which not only displays the logical space used, but also prevents new writes once a quota has been reached based on the logical space used.


MAX Data

While this was announced a couple months ago, MAX Data officially makes its debut alongside ONTAP 9.5. This is a server-side software product that lives outside of ONTAP. We covered it on the Tech ONTAP Podcast in Episode 154.

MAX Data offers ultra-low latency (think sub 10 microsecond) and more Ops/second with server-side software-based memory acceleration that leverages persistent memory such as NVDIMM and Optane Memory as they become available. Based on the Plexistor technology that NetApp acquired last year, MAX Data also offers enterprise-class data resiliency with MAX Recovery technology, for high availability and faster data recovery.

MAX Data can help accelerate database applications like Oracle, Cassandra, MongoDB and a variety of other Linux-based applications.


NetApp Data Availability Services (NDAS)

While not technically an ONTAP feature (though there are ONTAP elements such as the NDAS proxy and copy-to-cloud APIs), NetApp Data Availability Services is an integral part of the NetApp Data Fabric. It’s a cloud-resident orchestration app that simplifies hybrid cloud data protection workflows behind a single pane of glass. It’s also an intuitive search catalog for easy file and volume restores and leverages intelligent S3 object storage in AWS for lower cost solutions for backing up your ONTAP data. For more information, see


Feature Enhancements

NVMe over FC – Industry’s only HA failover story for NVMeoFC namespaces via asymmetric namespace access (ANA), which is a NVMe standard that NetApp helped develop.

Storage efficiencies – Up to 15% more storage efficiencies seen with compression improvements.

FlexGroup volumes – New functionality such as FabricPool support, quota enforcement and qtree statistics open up a whole new set of workloads that can leverage FlexGroup volumes, such as home directories.

SnapLock – SnapLock adds feature enhancements such as Unified SnapMirror engine support, resync without data loss, clock synchronization in software defined ONTAP and 1,023 snapshot support.

MetroCluster (MCC) – ONTAP 9.5 adds support for SVM-DR and ONTAP Select with MetroCluster, increases the supported distance for MCC IP to 700km(!), and expands the platforms supported for use with MCC IP to the A300 and FAS8200 series.

ONTAP 9.3 is now GA!

ONTAP 9 is on a new cadence model, which brings a new release every 6 months.

Today, ONTAP 9.3GA is available here!

ONTAP 9.3 was announced at NetApp Insight 2017 in Las Vegas and was covered at a high level by Jeff Baxter in the following blog:

Announcing NetApp ONTAP 9.3: The Next Step in Modernizing Your Data Management

Jeff has a follow-up infographic here:

I also did a brief video summary here:

We also did a podcast with ONTAP Chief Evangelist Jeff Baxter (@baxontap) and ONTAP SVP Octavian Tanase (@octav) here:

For info on what GA means, see:

Also, check out the documentation center:

The general theme around ONTAP 9.3 is modernization of the data center. Here’s a high level list of features, with more detail on some of them later in this blog.

Security enhancements

Simplicity innovations

  • MongoDB support added to application provisioning
  • Simplified data protection flows in System Manager
  • Guided cluster setup and expansion
  • Adaptive QoS

Performance and efficiency improvements

  • Up to 30% performance improvement for specific workloads via WAFL improvements, parallelization and flash optimizations
  • Automatic schedules for deduplication
  • Backgroup inline aggregate deduplication (AFF only; automatic schedule only)

NetApp FlexGroup volume features

This is covered in more detail in What’s New for NetApp FlexGroup Volumes in ONTAP 9.3?

  • Qtrees
  • Antivirus
  • Volume autogrow
  • SnapVault/Unified SnapMirror
  • SMB Change/notify
  • QoS Maximums
  • Improved automated load balancing logic

Data Fabric additions

  • SolidFire to ONTAP SnapMirror
  • MetroCluster over IP

Now, let’s look at a few of the features in a bit more detail. If you have things you want covered more, leave a comment.

Multifactor Authentication (MFA)

Traditionally, to log in to an ONTAP system as an admin, all you needed was a username and password and you’d get root-level access to all storage virtual machines in a cluster. If you’re the benevolent storage admin, that’s great! If you’re a hostile actor, great!* (*unless you’re the benevolent storage admin… then, not so great)

ONTAP 9.3 introduces the ability to configure an external Identity Provider (IdP) server to interact with OnCommand System Manager and Unified Manager to require a key to be passed in addition to a username and password. Initial support for IdP will include Microsoft Active Directory Federation Services and Shibboleth.


For the command line, the multifactor portion would be passed by way of SSH keys currently. We cover MFA in the following Tech ONTAP podcast:

SnapLock Enhancements

SnapLock is a NetApp ONTAP feature that provides data compliance for businesses that need to preserve data for regulatory reasons, such as HIPAA standards (SnapLock compliance) or for internal requirements, such as needing to preserve records (SnapLock enterprise).

ONTAP 9.3 provides a few enhancements to SnapLock, including one that isn’t available from any storage provider currently.


Legal hold is useful in the event that a court has ordered specific documents to be preserved for an ongoing case or investigation. This can be applied to multiple files and remains in effect until you choose to remove it.


Event-based retention allows storage administrators to set protections on data based on defined events, such as an employee leaving the company (to avoid disgruntled deletions), or for insurance use cases (such as death of a policy holder).


Volume append mode is the SnapLock feature I alluded to, where no one else can currently accomplish this. Essentially, it’s for media workloads (audio and video) and will write-protect the portion of the files that have already been streamed and allow appending to those files after they’ve been protected. It’s kind of like having a CD-R on  your storage system.

Performance improvements


Every release of ONTAP strives to improve performance in some way. ONTAP 9.3 introduces performance enhancements (mostly for SAN)/block via the following changes:

  • Read latency reductions via WAFL optimizations for All Flash FAS SAN (block) systems
  • Better parallelization for all workloads on mid-range and high-end systems (FAS and AFF) to deliver more throughput/IOPS at lower latencies
  • Parallelization of the iSCSI layer to allow iSCSI to use more cores (best results on 20 core or higher systems)

The following graphs show some examples of that performance improvement versus ONTAP 9.2.



Adaptive Quality of Service (QoS)

Adaptive QoS is a way for storage administrators to allow ONTAP to manage the number of IOPS per TB of volume space without the need to intervene. You simply set a service level class and let ONTAP control the rest.

The graphic below shows how it works.


We cover QoS minimums and performance enhancements in the following Tech ONTAP podcast:

MetroCluster over IP

MetroCluster is a way for clusters to operate in a high availability manner over long distances. (hundreds of kilometers) Traditionally, MetroCluster has been done over fiber channel networks due to low latency requirements needed to guarantee writes can be committed to both sites.

However, now that IP networks are getting more robust, ONTAP is able to support MetroCluster over IP, which provides the following benefits:

  • Reduced CapEx and OpEx (no more dedicated fiber channel networks, cards, bridges)
  • Simplicty of management (use existing IP networks)


The ONTAP 9.3 release is going to be a limited release for this feature, with the following caveats:

  • A700, FAS9000 only
  • 100km limit
  • Dedicated ISL with extended VLAN currently required
  • 1 iWARP card per node

We cover MetroCluster over IP in this podcast:

SolidFire to ONTAP SnapMirror

A few years back, the concept of a data fabric (where all of your data can be moved anywhere with the click of a button) was introduced.

That vision continued this year with the inclusion of SnapMirror from SolidFire (and NetApp HCI systems) to ONTAP.


ONTAP 9.3 will allow storage administrators to implement a disaster recovery plan for their SolidFire systems.

This includes the following:

  • Baseline and incremental replication using NetApp SnapMirror from SolidFire to ONTAP
  • Failover storage to ONTAP for disaster recovery
  • Failback storage from ONTAP to SolidFire
    • Only for LUNs replicated from SolidFire
    • Replication from ONTAP to SolidFire only for failback

That covers a deeper look at some of the new ONTAP 9.3 features. Feel free to comment if you want to learn more about these features, or any not listed in the overview.

Behind the Scenes: Episode 118 – MetroCluster Primer

Welcome to the Episode 118, part of the continuing series called “Behind the Scenes of the NetApp Tech ONTAP Podcast.”


This week on the podcast, we cover everything you want to know about MetroCluster with MetroCluster TME Nabil Fares (@nfares) and Solutions Architect Niels Reker (, including the new MetroCluster over IP feature in ONTAP 9.3!

Finding the Podcast

The podcast is all finished and up for listening. You can find it on iTunes or SoundCloud or by going to

This week’s episode is 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: