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.

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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!

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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 (skip.shapiro@netapp.com)! 

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.

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/tech-ontap-podcast?refid=stpr

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

http://feeds.soundcloud.com/users/soundcloud:users:164421460/sounds.rss

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.

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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.

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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.

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/tech-ontap-podcast?refid=stpr

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

http://feeds.soundcloud.com/users/soundcloud:users:164421460/sounds.rss

Our YouTube channel (episodes uploaded sporadically) is here:

New White Paper! Media and Entertainment Workloads using NetApp ONTAP! #NAB2019

Image result for media and entertainment

Every year, the National Association of Broadcasters puts on a show to deliver the latest and greatest in media and entertainment content and technology solutions.

This year, I decided to try to piggyback on the show and put out a new white paper about how NetApp ONTAP works with media and entertainment workloads. Included in this whitepaper:

  • DreamWorks Animation case study on NetApp ONTAP
  • Media/entertainment benchmark numbers on NetApp FlexGroup volumes
  • Why you’d want to use NetApp ONTAP

You can find the white paper here:

https://www.netapp.com/us/media/wp-7301.pdf

Leave your feedback in the comments!

Behind the Scenes: Episode 182 – NetApp on NetApp: FlexGroup Volumes and ActiveIQ

Welcome to the Episode 182, part of the continuing series called “Behind the Scenes of the NetApp Tech ONTAP Podcast.”

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This week on the podcast, we invite in the guys from Customer One, who operate the NetApp on NetApp program. NetApp on NetApp is a program where we leverage the latest NetApp technologies within our own organizations. Eduardo Rivera (@mredrivera) and Faisal Salaam (https://www.linkedin.com/in/faisal-salam-754a13104/) as we discuss how NetApp is using FlexGroup volumes to power Active IQ. 

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.

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/tech-ontap-podcast?refid=stpr

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

http://feeds.soundcloud.com/users/soundcloud:users:164421460/sounds.rss

Our YouTube channel (episodes uploaded sporadically) is here:

New and updated FlexGroup Technical Reports now available for ONTAP 9.4!

ONTAP 9.4 is now available, so that means the TRs need to get a refresh.

161212-westworld-news

Here’s what I’ve done for FlexGroup in ONTAP 9.4…

New Tech Report!

First, I moved the data protection section of the best practices TR (TR-4571) into its own dedicated backup and data protection TR, which can be found here:

TR-4678: Data Protection and Backup – FlexGroup volumes

Why? Well, that section is going to grow larger and larger as we add more data protection and backup functionality, so it made sense to proactively create a new one.

Updated TRs!

TR-4557 got an update of mostly just what’s new in ONTAP 9.4. That TR is a technical overview, which is intended just to give information on how FlexGroups work. The new feature payload for FlexGroup volumes in ONTAP 9.4 included:

  • QoS minimums and Adaptive QoS
  • FPolicy and file audit
  • SnapDiff support

TR-4571 is the best practices TR and got a brunt of the updates. Included in the TR (aside from details about new features), I added:

  • 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 88 – Migrating to ONTAP, FlexGroup volumes

Welcome to the Episode 88, part of the continuing series called “Behind the Scenes of the NetApp Tech ONTAP Podcast.”

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This week on the podcast, we invited Hadrian Baron of NetApp’s migration team to talk about moving from 7-Mode and competitor storage over to clustered ONTAP, as well as the advancements made in the simplicity and speed of moving there. We also discuss multiprotocol NAS challenges and FlexGroup volumes and their benefits.

Finding the Podcast

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

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

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/tech-ontap-podcast?refid=stpr

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

http://feeds.soundcloud.com/users/soundcloud:users:164421460/sounds.rss

You can listen here:

You can also now find us on YouTube. (The uploads are sporadic and we don’t go back prior to Episode 85):

ONTAP 9.2RC1 is available!

Like clockwork, the 6 month cadence is upon us again.

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ONTAP 9.2RC1 is available for download here:

http://mysupport.netapp.com/NOW/download/software/ontap/9.2RC1/

If you’re interested in a podcast where we cover the ONTAP 9.2 features, check it out here:

Also out: OnCommand (truly) Unified Manager 7.2:

http://mysupport.netapp.com/documentation/productlibrary/index.html?productID=61373

For now, let’s dive in a bit, shall we?

First of all, I made sure to upgrade my own cluster to show some of the new stuff off. Went off without a hitch:

upgraded

Now, let’s start with one of the most eagerly awaited new features…

Aggregate Inline Deduplication

If you’re not familiar with deduplication, it’s a storage feature that allows blocks that are identical to rely on pointers to a single block instead of having multiple copies of the same blocks. For example, if I am storing multiple JPEG images on a share (or even inside the same PowerPoint file), deduplication will allow me to save storage space by storing just one copy of the data. The image below is an 8.4MB photo I took in Point Reyes, California:

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If I store two copies of the file on a share (no deduplication), that means I use up 16MB.

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If I use deduplication, then that means the duplicate blocks only take up 4KB per block as they are pointed back to a single copy of the blocks.

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If I have multiple copies of the same image, they all point back to the same blocks:

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Pretty cool, eh?

Well, there was *one* problem with how ONTAP does deduplication; the duplicate blocks only count against a single FlexVol volume. That meant if we had the same file in multiple volumes, you don’t get the benefits of deduplication across those volumes.

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In ONTAP 9.2, that issue is resolved. You can now take advantage of deduplication when multiple volumes reside in the same physical aggregate.

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This is all currently done inline (as data is ingested) only, and currently only on All Flash FAS systems. The space savings come in handy in workloads such as ESXi datastores, where you may be applying OS patches across multiple VMs in multiple datastores hosted in multiple FlexVol volumes.

At a high level, this animation shows how it works:

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Another place where aggregate inline deduplication would rock? NetApp FlexGroup volumes, where a single container is comprised of multiple member FlexVols on the same physical storage. Speaking of FlexGroup volumes, that leads us to the next feature added to ONTAP 9.2.

Other storage efficiency improvements

In addition to aggregate inline dedupe, ONTAP 9.2 also adds:

  • Advanced Drive Partitioning v2 (ADPv2) support for FAS8xxx and FAS9xxx with spinning drives; previously ADPv2 was only supported on All Flash FAS
  • Increase of the maximum aggregate size to 800TB (was previously 400TB)
  • Automated aggregate provisioning in System Manager for easier aggregate creation

NetApp Volume Encryption on FlexGroup volumes

ONTAP 9.1 introduced volume-level encryption (NVE). We did a podcast on it if you’re interested in learning more about it, but in ONTAP 9.2, support for NVE was added to NetApp FlexGroup volumes. Now you can apply encryption only at the volume level (as opposed to the disks via NSE drives) for your large, unstructured NAS workloads.

To apply it, all you need is a volume encryption license. Then, use the same process you would use for a FlexVol volume.

Additionally, NVE can now be used on SnapLock compliance volumes!

Quality of Service (QoS) Minimums/Guaranteed QoS

In ONTAP 8.2, NetApp introduced Quality of Service to allow storage administrators to apply policies to volumes – and even files like luns or VMs – to prevent bully workloads from affecting other workloads in a cluster.

Last year, NetApp acquired SolidFire, which has a pretty mean QoS of its own where it actually approaches QoS from the other end of the spectrum – guaranteeing a performance floor for workloads that require a specific service level.

qos

I’m not 100% sure, but I’m guessing NetApp saw that and said “that’s pretty sweet. Let’s do that.”

So, they have. Now, ONTAP 9.2 has a maximum and a minimum/guaranteed QoS for storage administrators and service providers. Check out a video on it here:

ONTAP Select enhancements

ONTAP 9.2 also includes some ONTAP Select enhancements, such as:

  • 2-node HA support
  • FlexGroup volume support
  • Improved performance
  • Easier deployment
  • ESX Robo license
  • Single node ONTAP Select vNAS with VSAN and iSCSI LUN support
  • Inline deduplication support

Usability enhancements

ONTAP is also continuing its mission to make the deployment and configuration via the System Manager GUI easier and easier. In ONTAP 9.2, we bring:

  • Enhanced upgrade support
  • Application aware data management
  • Simplified cluster expansion
  • Simplified aggregate deployment
  • Guided cluster setup

FabricPools

We covered FabricPools in Episode 63 of the Tech ONTAP podcast. Essentially, FabricPools tier cold blocks from flash disk to cloud or an on-premises S3 target like StorageGRID WebScale. It’s not a replacement for backup or disaster recovery; it’s more of a way to lower your total cost of ownership for storage by moving data that is not actively in use to free up space for other workloads. This is all done automatically via a policy. It behaves more like an extension of the aggregate, as the pointers to the blocks that moved remain on the local storage device.

fabricpool

ONTAP 9.2 introduces version 1 of this feature, which will support the following:

  • Tiering to S3 (StorageGRID) or AWS
  • Snapshot-only tiering on primary storage
  • SnapMirror destination tiering on secondary storage

Future releases will add more functionality, so stay tuned for that! We’ll also be featuring FabricPools in a deep dive for a future podcast episode.

So there you have it! The latest release of ONTAP! Post your thoughts or questions in the comments below!

New doc – Top Best Practices for FlexGroup volumes

When I wrote TR-4571: NetApp FlexGroup Volume Best Practices and Implementation Guide, I wanted to keep the document under 50 pages to be more manageable and digestible. 95 pages later, I realized there was so much good information to pass on to people about NetApp FlexGroup volumes that I wasn’t going to be able to condense a TR down effectively.

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The TRs have been out for a while now, and I’m seeing that 95 pages might be a bit much for some people. Everyone’s busy! I was getting asked the same general questions about deploying FlexGroup volumes over and over and decided I needed to create a new, shorter best practices document that focused *only* on the most important, most frequently asked general best practices. It’s part TR, part FAQ. It’s more of an addendum, a sort of companion reader to TR-4571. And the best part?

It’s only FOUR PAGES LONG.

Check it out here:

http://www.netapp.com/us/media/tr-4571-a.pdf